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Officials: Baby left in woods for hours

A 25-year-old Nathalie woman was taken into police custody Saturday after her 5-month-old little girl was found lying on the ground in a wooded area some five miles from her home.

The infant was rushed to Halifax Regional Hospital for treatment after being abandoned in the woods overnight, according to Halifax County Sheriff Fred S. Clark.

Rachel Pittman of Hodges Street called authorities at 7:45 a.m. Saturday to report her 5-month-old daughter, Virginia Anne (nicknamed Jenny), was missing. 

The sheriff said the mother initially told Deputies Tommy Sargent and Tyler Clarke someone had taken Virginia after the mother had gone to bed Friday night.

Pittman told police she last saw the baby at 11 p.m. Friday when she went to bed. When she awoke Saturday morning she discovered the baby was missing, the sheriff said.

Lt. M. A. Womack and Investigator J. M. Burton traveled to Pittman’s Hodges Street residence and spent Saturday morning gathering evidence and questioning Pittman concerning her baby’s disappearance. 

Authorities also questioned the child’s father who lives out of town, Clark said, noting the father was unaware the child had been reported missing.

“Evidence at the scene led investigators to believe statements the mother originally made about her missing baby were not accurate,” Clark said.

The sheriff praised Lt. Womack and Investigator Burton for their perseverance and persistence in questioning the mother after she was taken to the sheriff’s office shortly after noon for further interrogation.

While the two officers continued to seek answers from the infant’s mother, law enforcement officers spread out scowering green boxes and wooded areas in and around the Crystal Hill area in search of the missing baby.

It was around 2 p.m. Saturday, Clark said, when Pittman finally admitted to investigators she had taken the infant down a farm road, about a quarter-mile off Hunting Creek Road, and left her in the woods around 9 p.m. Friday night.

After confessing to leaving her child in the woods overnight, Pittman led Womack to the farm road where the 5-month-old was found alive Saturday afternoon, some 17 hours after being abandoned on a cold and rainy night.

The infant, wearing her pajamas, was found lying on the leafy ground wrapped in a blanket.

Although the temperatures had dropped into the 40s, and it had rained much of the night and into the day Saturday, the infant appeared to be “OK.” 

 “The baby wasn’t really crying, but she was making noises. Thank God we found the little girl alive. It really is a miracle she is OK,” Clark said Saturday evening. “She was dirty and hungry, and they fed her and cleaned her up, and she seemed to be alright.” 

Halifax County Rescue and Triangle Volunteer Fire Department EMS assisted authorities at the scene where the baby was found.

After leading police to her daughter, Pittman was charged with felony child abandonment.

Additional charges will be forthcoming, the sheriff said.

Pittman is being held in the Blue Ridge Regional Jail.

 “The baby is fine and still in the emergency room,” Clark said Saturday evening.

Halifax County Department of Social Services was called to take custody of the infant, and later Saturday night she was released into foster care after receiving a clean bill of health, he added.