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Infant abandoned in frigid stairwell may soon be adopted in wake of arrests

TORONTO - The saga of an infant found in a parking garage stairwell after spending two hours in sub-zero temperatures could soon culminate in the girl's adoption after police announced Thursday the arrests of two people believed to be the biological parents.


TORONTO - The saga of an infant found in a parking garage stairwell after spending two hours in sub-zero temperatures could soon culminate in the girl's adoption after police announced Thursday the arrests of two people believed to be the biological parents.

The story of the cherubic little girl, dubbed Angelica-Leslie for her angelic face and the street where she was found, prompted a huge swell of support after she was found in -14 C weather in January.

People flooded the Children's Aid Society with trust fund donations, homemade knit blankets and sleepers.

There were more than 80 offers to adopt her.

Meanwhile, the search for her parents was the focus of a large police investigation that centred on a green car seen on surveillance video pulling up to the stairwell and driving off after someone put something inside.

After four months of poring over a large number of tips from the public, police announced Thursday they had arrested and charged a couple they believe are Angelica-Leslie's biological parents.

The Children's Aid Society praised the police for their "dogged determination," because now the little girl can at least have a past.

"She's going to have some medical history and some social history, which are going to be crucial to her as she grows up and becomes an adult," said spokeswoman Melanie Persaud. "You really need to know, you need to have some sense of who you are."

The couple charged is from Toronto, but since April has lived in Kitchener, Ont., where they were arrested Wednesday. They are a married man and woman who are both 30 years old, police said, but their names won't be released to protect Angelica-Leslie's true identity.

They were charged with abandoning a child, failing to provide necessaries of life, assault causing bodily harm and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

The court has also issued a publication ban on information that would identify the child or the accused.

As the criminal case against them proceeds, so will the adoption process for Angelica-Leslie.

Because the alleged biological parents were found, Children's Aid must now serve them notice of the court proceedings to make the baby a Crown ward for the purposes of adoption.

The couple has the right to put forward a plan in family court if they want to care for her, but Persaud said that's unlikely.

"Nothing is impossible," she said. "We don't know all the circumstances, but it's hard to imagine a situation where they would get custody of their child."

After the notice is served CAS must wait 30 days before going back to court, at which time they will continue with their attempts to find the girl a permanent home. If there are any relatives who are willing and able to care for the baby, those options will be explored too, Persaud said.

For the past few months she has been cared for in a foster home, and Persaud said Angelica-Leslie is an active, talkative and healthy baby.

"She's a playful little girl," Persaud said.

"She initiates conversation with her foster siblings and of course conversation at her age is a lot of babbling, but apparently she has a lot to say."

The girl is "quite mobile and seems to be wriggling about on her belly as well as doing something known as a crab crawl, so you can't leave her alone for a minute," Persaud added.

She was thought to be about eight months old when she was found in January, but her foster mother told Persaud she is at the approximate developmental stage of a 9 1/2-month old.

Det. Keith Moxley said police don't yet know why the baby was left in the stairwell, but that the investigation continues.

A tip from the public led to the arrests, Moxley said, and it was a relief for the many officers who had been working on the case.

"It was frustrating because it is quite frankly looking for a needle in a haystack," he said.

The parents were known to police but do not have criminal records, Moxley said, adding they had each been interviewed twice previously in the investigation.

Persaud said she hopes that when Angelica-Leslie grows up she takes comfort in the positive aspects of the whole case.

"When her adoptive family...tells her her story, I hope that she is able to focus not on the tragic part of how she came to public attention," Persaud said.

"I hope she is able to focus on the fact that when she did come to public attention, what an outpouring of support and love and care and well wishes there were for her.

"Every person should know that they were cared about and this is one loved little girl."

 
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