| South Florida Sun Sentinel |
May 10, 2019 | 5:02 PM
| West Boca
Rafaelle Sousa, 35, is accused of abandoning her newborn daughter in a dumpster in West Boca. (Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office)
The Sheriff’s Office was going door to door at the apartment complex, trying to figure out who would leave a newborn baby girl in the dumpster, her head wrapped in a plastic garbage bag and discarded with the rest of the household trash.
They were closing in, and found their way to a ground-floor apartment at Building 6 of the sprawling West Boca complex off State Road 7 on Wednesday. It was the dumpster for this building.
But Rafaelle Alessandra Carbalho Sousa wouldn’t answer the door when they came knocking.
She would tell her neighbor in their native Portuguese after detectives had left that she was a nail-tech doing manicures and pedicures out of her home without a permit, her neighbor said.
“’I didn’t open my door. I don’t have papers,’” Sousa said, according to the neighbor.
“They just want to know about the baby,” the neighbor told her.
“I don’t speak English,” Sousa responded.
Still, Sousa said she canceled her afternoon appointments in case the Sheriff’s Office came back again asking questions, the neighbor said.
The neighbor, who asked not to be identified for her own safety, said she still didn’t think anything was off when she saw Sousa on Thursday wearing a blue garment around her belly to flatten her stomach. The neighbor teased Sousa that she ought to take it off.
“They’re going to think you’re the mother,” she joked. Sousa laughed.
“Oh, I didn’t think,” she answered.
Neighbors saw Sousa arrested Thursday, led away in handcuffs into an ambulance.
Her husband reportedly told neighbors he didn’t know his wife was pregnant. And he told the same thing to the Sheriff’s Office, who wrote on the arrest report that “he found out when police first arrived because she whispered to him” that it was her baby in the dumpster.
“I put the baby in the dumpster,” were among the first words Sousa uttered to law enforcement, according to the arrest report, which also identifies her as a nail technician.
Cops didn’t crack the case going door-to-door in the end.
Instead, Sousa also left behind another clue that led to her arrest: A receipt from the beauty-supply store where she recently shopped, deputies say.
Sousa, 35, admitted placing her baby girl in a bag and throwing her in the dumpster, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said Friday. But that plan was foiled when workers at her apartment complex found the child alive Wednesday after hearing cries coming from the dumpster.
The baby, who weighed nearly seven pounds, was found in a white plastic garbage bag with a red tie. The girl’s head also was wrapped in a yellow and white plastic bag that also contained coffee grinds and other household trash.
Rafaelle Alessandra Carbalho Sousa, the mother accused of abandoning her newborn girl in a West Boca dumpster, will be kept in jail without bond, a judge ruled Friday morning. (Marc Freeman)
Detectives found a similar trash bag in the dumpster, with blood-soaked napkins and a receipt from Fantastic Beauty Supply, a store in Deerfield Beach whose system can store customers’ telephone numbers. Employees were able to match the receipt and provide deputies Sousa’s phone number, a sheriff’s arrest report said. Deputies then determined Sousa lives in an apartment near the dumpster, in the 10300 block of Boca Entrada Boulevard.
Diane Burton, a 20-year employee for the beauty-supply store, said she had been following the news Wednesday when the newborn was found in West Boca.
“When I got to work Thursday morning, detectives had been here interviewing some of the employees,” Burton, 54, recalled. The detectives also reviewed the store’s surveillance footage, and “they did spot her on video.”
She was surprised to learn the newborn’s mom had shopped at the store as recently as Tuesday, she said.
“They were able to identify her with the receipt and the videotape, and I guess that cohesively led to the arrest of this lady,” Burton said. “Thank God.”
Burton said her co-workers recalled having “no clue” that the newborn’s mom was pregnant. “The clothing that she wore was a little blousy,” Burton said. “But they couldn’t really tell if she was pregnant or in seasonal apparel.”
She said detectives also encountered a bit of luck: Within the past year, the beauty-supply store upgraded its system so all receipts include the store’s name, as well as its contact information. Previously, the receipts didn’t identify the store, she said. “It’s been very helpful in this case,” she said.
People who had seen Sousa in recent days said they didn’t realize she was pregnant, partly because she wore loose-fitting clothes. Sousa’s neighbor, a woman who frequently chatted with her, said she didn’t know — and couldn’t tell — that Sousa was pregnant.
“She never told me," said the neighbor. "She dressed in black, and she looked normal.”
The neighbor said Sousa and her husband are from Brazil and have a 3-year-old son. On Friday, a blue stroller sat outside of the family’s unit at Alister Boca Raton apartments.
Even a couple months ago she complimented Sousa on what a wonderful mother she was.
The neighbor said Sousa had laid out a blanket on the grass for her son, playing with him and spreading out food “like a picnic.”
“You’re such a good mother,” the neighbor remembered telling her. “I never do that with my kids.”
After the baby was found in the dumpster, the neighbor said she told Sousa how upset she was. “How could a mother do this?” she asked. “Why didn’t she give it to somebody? She could have given it to me. I don’t have a girl."
“Me too! I don’t understand it," Sousa replied, according to the neighbor. "I don’t believe it.”
At Sousa’s court appearance Friday, Circuit Judge Ted Booras ordered her held without bond on charges of attempted felony murder and aggravated child abuse. “She is not allowed to have contact with the minor child, the victim in this case,” Booras said.
A Portuguese interpreter translated the judge’s instructions.
The Sheriff’s Office said Sousa told detectives what she had done.
“She stated she tried to get the baby to respond and waited three hours to see if the baby would breathe,” detectives said in the report. “She also said she went back twice to the dumpster to make sure the baby was dead but never approached the bag because there were people in the parking area around the dumpster.”REST OF STORY HERE