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Woman Hid Pregnancy From Family, Abandons Baby

January 22, 1986

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (AP) _ A woman hid her pregnancy from her husband, family and friends before secretly giving birth on Christmas Day in her home, then abandoned the infant in the back of a minister’s car, according to police and the father.

The infant, named Joy Noel by social workers because she was found the day after Christmas, is back home with her family, although the mother, Jodie Edwards, faces three years in prison for abandoning the child.

″We were in the living room playing with the toys Santa Claus had left. She was in the bathroom having a baby. I wonder, how did I miss that?″ her husband, Bob, asked.

″Obviously, it’s hard to believe. Everybody’s who’s heard about it has said that. But I can tell you that I didn’t file charges against the father. If I didn’t file charges, that means I didn’t think he was lying,″ said Deputy District Attorney Susan Biery.

Detective Don Muren, the chief investigator on the case, said his instincts told him that the father was telling the truth.

″You have to talk to these people. They have a very unique relationship. I just think that after having talked to him and seen his reactions, while it is difficult to believe, there is no reason not to believe him,″ Muren said.

The infant girl, the couple’s fifth child, was returned to her parents last week until a court decides Thursday if they should have permanent custody. The Edwardses renamed the child, but declined to reveal it.

Mrs. Edwards, 32, was charged with felony child abandonment and faces a maximum penalty of three years in state prison if convicted. She is free on her own recognizance pending an arraignment.

″She’s ashamed, confused,″ Edwards said about his wife in an interview Sunday with the Times-Advocate of Escondido.

Edwards, a former Marine who earns $6.50 an hour working for a graphic arts company, blames himself.

″No. 1, I should have known. No. 2, at 32 years old and with a college degree, I should be making more than when I was 12 working on the farm,″ he said.

The Edwards moved to this city 35 miles northeast of San Diego little more than a year ago to join many of Mrs. Edwards’ relatives after her mother died of a heart attack.

Edwards had been a highly paid chief of security at a Las Vegas, Nev., casino, but took the graphic arts job because he always dreamed of becoming a full-time artist.

Money was tight. In addition to tending the couples’ children, Mrs. Edwards worked at a pet shop.

Edwards recalled a conversation the couple had shortly after he took the graphics job. His wife brought up having another child.

″I said, ’Hey, I don’t even want to talk about it. It’s out of the question,‴ he said.

As her pregnancy developed, friends and relatives questioned Mrs. Edwards about her expanding figure, but she convinced them and her husband that it was ″bloating″ brought on by ″female problems.″

″She was working a lot, and we kind of passed each other,″ Edwards said. On Christmas Day, Edwards said his wife feigned the flu and gave birth in the bathroom while he and the other children played with their gifts. Later, Edwards said he dropped exhausted into bed, too tired to notice the infant that was also in the bed.

The next morning, Mrs. Edwards planned to take the child to the hospital because her umbilical cord was bleeding. While walking to the hospital entrance, ″she saw the minister’s car marked ‘clergy.’ She saw a car seat,″ Edwards said. ″She just wanted a little time to get her head together.″

Mrs. Edwards left the child in the car, then had second thoughts and was going to retrieve her but panicked when she saw two people watching her.

Mrs. Edwards tried to call the hospital minister the same day to tell him she wanted the baby back, but was unable to reach him, Edwards said.

Meanwhile, the infant was placed in a foster home.

Detectives questioned Mrs. Edwards on Jan. 2 after some of her friends called police to say she had looked pregnant before Christmas and was much thinner after the holidays.

Police obtained a search warrant Jan. 10 and took Mrs. Edwards to a hospital, where an examination revealed she had recently given birth.

Edwards didn’t believe his wife had abandoned the child until after the exam.

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