Sacramento coroner restricts agreement with Garden of Innocence

Well, that was fast.

Hours after SN&R’s October 10 story on Garden of Innocence National hit stands, the charity that buried 20 miscarried fetuses in Citrus Heights last month was defending a campaign that labels them “abandoned children.”

“This article is basically claiming that these infants that are fetal deaths … deserve to be in a potters field mixed up with other indigent that are not innocent as they are,” Victor Hipolito Jr., area manager of the local Sierra chapter, wrote in a Facebook post that has since been taken down.

According to the post, the county coroner will hold onto the remains of eight cremated fetuses that GOI Sierra was planning to inter during an October 19 ceremony at Sierra Hills Memorial Park & East Lawn Mortuary. Hipolito said he had “nestled” four of the hand-wrapped cremains into their urns with “a small beanie baby toy” for each.

On Monday, coroner Gregory Wyatt told SN&R his office was refining its agreement with the Sierra chapter to apply to “truly abandoned baby cases,”and not hospital stillbirths that can “cause public confusion.” This means that parents who miscarry at hospitals and don’t take the fetuses home will not have them named—and, in many cases, renamed—by Garden of Innocence and buried during multifaith ceremonies.

Meanwhile, co-founder Elissa Davey, a San Diego real estate agent, contended the story mischaracterized the organization she created in 1998. “We do our work quietly and do not seek media attention,” she wrote in an email to $100 donors.

GOI Sierra issued multiple press releases prior to its September 21 service, which was covered by News 10Fox 40 and Valley Community Newspapers. The group has also been written about in The Sacramento Bee.

Davey was attempting to locate the donor who left a negative comment about her organization online. That person later identified himself to SN&R as Michael Warren, who said he felt “suckered” into donating by the statements of those at the September 21 service. His $100 has since been refunded.

In her email, Davey also claimed an interview with SN&R that never occurred.

Neither she nor Hipolito responded to questions about what percentage of the infant remains their group receives meet GOI’s internal definitions of abandoned or unidentified.

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