On January 19, 1985, Marcus Wallace was placed in a trash bag and dropped into a dumpster behind a gas station shortly after being born. He was left to die, either from suffocation or freezing in the 20 degree temperatures.
Thanks to an air pump being broken at an initial gas station stop, Michael Randelman, then 25, discovered the abandoned infant, saving him from certain death.
Randelman was driving home from a girlfriend’s house at about 3 a.m. He stopped to air up his tires at a gas station, but the air pump was broken, so he headed a few miles to a Teaneck Shell station. Randelman said because the restroom was “filthy,” he went behind a dumpster to urinate.
“I heard a crying noise. I kept hearing it. I lifted the lid, but all I saw was garbage,” Randelman said.
After calling over the station attendant, Lo Kuo-Raya, they determined that a baby had to be inside so they called the Teaneck police. Officers Phillip Lavigne and Sheridan Ogden pulled up a minute later. “We figured it was a cat,” Ogden said.
Lavigne climbed in the trash can. He ripped open one of the bags and found the naked newborn, along with the umbilical cord and placenta.
“I was in a state of disbelief — to have someone just discard a living being like that,” said Lavigne.
The officers raced to the hospital at 80 mph, and were informed by hospital staff that they got there just in time.
“I think I had wings on the car,” Ogden said.
After a lengthy court battle, Wallace’s father, then 22-year-old, Ruthven Prithwie was awarded custody of the infant where he vowed to never tell the child of his abandonment. In a 1985 interview, Prithwie said, “I don’t want my son to know. If he ever does find out, I guess I’ll have to explain it to him, but I don’t know how.”
Wallace was 20 when he saw his birth certificate for the first time. When he saw his mother’s name, a woman he had never met, he became curious. He visited a New York Library, where he was shocked to find out the truth about his beginning.
A 1985 newspaper story was found about Dorothea Ballas, a 21-year-old student at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ. Ballas had given birth in her dorm room.
“I broke down. I got on the subway and cried all the way from 42nd Street to Flatbush Avenue. I had a lot of whys. What was wrong with me? Why me?” said Wallace.
“My mother threw me in a dumpster. It took me a very long time to deal with that, but I’ve gotten past it,” Wallace said.
Wallace continued to research that cold January evening, which led him to find the reporter of The Record of Hackensack newspaper, who covered the baby’s abandonment and miraculous survival.
“Nobody told me anything until I found your story,” he said.
The New York Post arraigned a reunion between Wallace and the brave men who saved him so many years ago.
Marcus Wallace, Sheridan Ogden, Michael Randelman and Phillip Lavigne gathered on a lot next to FDU dorms where the dumpster stood, exchanging bear hugs and weeping with joy. During their meeting, Lavigne presented Wallace with a Teaneck police cap and his shield — No. 187 — as mementos.
“It’s the best Christmas gift you could ever give a cop,” Lavigne sobbed. He was proud to have made a difference.
“I love you, Marcus,” Randelman told him. “You are special, and you were meant to be here. Don’t let that incident tell you otherwise.”
Ballas told police at the time that she hid her pregnancy from family, friends and the baby’s father.
Ballas pleaded guilty to attempted murder. “I gave birth to a child. I placed the child in a bag,” she said in court. According to Ballas it had been about 90 minutes before the infant was found. She was sentenced to probation and did no jail time.
Over the years, Wallace has tried to reach Ballas, but to no avail.
“She’s still my mother. She carried me full term. I have nothing but love for the woman. I’m very grateful that I’m able to be a loving father to my own little girl. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to be alive.”
Wallace said he still hopes to meet his birth mom someday and is determined to let her know that he forgives her.
H/T: The New York Post
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