MILFORD -- A neighborhood of well-kept homes was shocked yesterday after two trash collectors made a gruesome discovery as they were about to compact a load -- the body of an infant that appeared to have tumbled out of a split bag.
A trash collector had tossed bags from about 10 houses on Purchase Street into the back of the truck and was about to activate the compactor when he spotted the body about 11:30 a.m., according to Milford Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin.
"It's awful, just plain awful," said O'Loughlin.
Police did not know the cause of death, said O'Loughlin, who said the infant was Caucasian. He did not know the child's gender.
"If the baby was stillborn, we want to make sure the mother gets help," O'Loughlin said.
The body was taken to the Boston Medical Examiner's office, and an autopsy is expected to be performed today, according to State Police Lieutenant Richard McKeon.
Police interviewed residents along the street, a neighborhood of modest single-family homes.
Melanie Lomberto, 28, was standing outside her home with her three boys, ages, 5, 3, and 1, when police stopped by.
"They asked if I knew of anyone who had been pregnant. . . . I told them 'no.' . . . It's so awful. There are so many people who would love to have children, if they could. . . . Then something like this happens. It's very upsetting."
Lisa Williams, 48, said she didn't know about the discovery until police knocked on her door.
"They asked me if I knew anybody here in the neighborhood who was pregnant," Williams said. "I was shocked. I told them all my neighbors are older couples. "
One resident of Purchase Street, which is a main thoroughfare leading to Hopkinton, speculated that the baby may not have been born in town. "It's such a busy street, anybody could have driven by and just dropped it," said Rhoda Carrachino , 69, who lives across the street from where the trash truck stopped.
Police also examined residents' trash barrels for DNA and other evidence, O'Loughlin said. Police confiscated some barrels, and left others behind after swabbing them.
The trash truck, which belonged to BFI Inc., was driven to the Milford Highway Department barn, where it was examined.
Milford was among the first communities in Massachusetts to adopt the Baby Safe Haven law, which waives prosecution of parents who leave an unwanted child at a hospital or police or fire station within seven days of birth, according to the chairman of the Board of Selectmen, Brian Murray, who said the town passed it in 2003.
"We approved it even before the state did, because we felt it could help someone," said Murray.
The law was passed statewide in 2004.
"It's just awful," he said. "All someone had to do was bring the baby to the fire station."
Trash was collected yesterday, a day later than usual, due to the New Year's holiday, Murray said.
(Correction: Because of incorrect information provided by a town selectman, a story in yesterday's City & Region section stated that Milford was among the first communities in Massachusetts to adopt the Baby Safe Haven law in 2003. Milford petitioned the Legislature in 2004 to allow it to enact such a law; the Legislature passed a law later that year that went into effect statewide.)