“I saw little toes wiggling. I lost it.” Special Report: A safe haven for lives left hanging in the balance

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KNIGHTSVILLE, Ind. (WTHI) – Every day children are abused and neglected. Some are simply unwanted, even before they’re born.

When a mother believes she has nowhere to turn, a baby’s life is left hanging in the balance. In a Special Report, “A Safe Haven” News 10’s Lindsey Yates takes a close look at a heart wrenching decision.

It’s a reputation the nearly 900 residents point to with pride. A quaint place where neighbors become family. Crime? Unheard of and for most, even those in law enforcement, simply unimaginable. “Quiet, peaceful, good people,” said Robert Parr.

“It’s a small sleepy town. Nothing much goes on here,” Larry Pierce added with a chuckle.

In the summer heat of 1997 the tight-knit community of Knightsville was forced onto the front page. It was a gripping headline no one saw coming.

Parr is climbing in age, now seventy-six-years-old, he can still paint a vivid picture of that August night. “There’s not words to describe that. The only thing I can say is, it was God at work.”

Parr’s been praising the higher power ever since, but first let’s go back. It was nearly two decades ago. He was town marshal at the time and just happened to be in the area near the local park. Someone warned him they heard noises coming from the outhouse.

“I messed around for a while and couldn’t find anything. I thought I might as well go. Then, a voice told me to look again,” he said.

There in a filth-coated pit, a disturbing discovery unlike any other. “Somehow the corner of the blanket got pulled back, and there was little baby toes wiggling. Well, I lost it,” said Parr.

Several feet down, sign of new life…innocent, sweet, abandoned, but no longer alone. “That’s a thing around police officers, you say we’ve seen everything, but you’ve never seen everything. Back in that time it kind of put Knightsville on the map you could say,” said Pierce, who was the Clay County Sheriff at the time.

He remembers being on the scene within minutes. Questions raced through his mind, but only one truly mattered. “Is it alive? Is it ok? Is it going to be ok? It made a pretty good little drop,” said Pierce.

News 10 cameras were there that afternoon. They captured video as first responders swarmed the usually peaceful park. Those moments were a blur for Teresa Treadway. She was a paramedic and the first to hold the helpless newborn.

“There was really no other way to get him out, so we knew somebody was going to have to go down. I honestly thought he would sink and drowned. I don’t think she had any intentions of him being found. I don’t think she had any intentions of him surviving,” said Treadway.

Against all odds, the baby boy barely had a scratch. The town claimed him as one of their own. To be named Moses, meaning to pull out of water. “I went to the hospital and looked at his face, and he had a little smile. I’ve been ok ever since,” said Parr.

Turned over to the Indiana Department of Child Services, Moses left Parr’s world quicker than he came into it. You could say he was gone but far from forgotten.

“I see a newborn baby now and I just want to see it’s toes. It sticks with ya,” said Parr.

Thoughts often drift to where and who Moses is today, but thanks to the unsung heroes of a small, sleepy town…the possibilities are endless. “I’ll see him. Probably not in my time on earth, but one day I will see him,” said Parr.

The mother could have faced an attempted murder charge. To this day, she has never been found.

It’s important to note, Indiana adopted the Safe Haven Law three years later. It allows mothers in crisis to leave their newborns in a protected environment.

The Wabash Valley is now leading the charge for renewed awareness. Learn why in part two of “A Safe Haven” Friday on News 10 at 6.