Criminal charges have been brought against a young woman for an incident that took place while she was in the fall orientation unit of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) in Baltimore, Md. Charges of first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death have been brought against Melanie Blevins of Westminster, Md., who is a member of the Church of the Brethren.
The incident took place on Oct. 4, when Blevins checked into a hospital and was discovered to have given birth recently. After she told police the baby was stillborn, they found the body of the child in a trash bin outside St. John’s United Methodist Church in Baltimore, where the BVS orientation group was staying while doing volunteer work in the inner-city. Police then investigated the death of the baby.
After being released from hospital, Blevins returned home and did not complete the BVS orientation. She is not serving as a BVS volunteer.
BVS staff found out about the birth from the police, after she entered the hospital. They did not know she was pregnant, and the BVS orientation staff who were present in Baltimore did not know she gave birth.
The organization followed its usual protocols when the young woman was accepted into training, according to director Dan McFadden. A physical is not required for trainees as part of regular procedures, he said, but volunteers are required to provide a medical history. In a telephone interview that is required before accepting a trainee, the young woman answered in the negative the standard questions that are asked about any physical or other impediments to taking part in volunteer service.
The incident happened just a few days before the end of the three-week orientation. After the trauma of the orientation, staff and volunteers received professional counseling and support. The members of the unit have gone out on placements as fulltime BVS volunteers, and are working in a variety of places around the country and internationally.
“We in the Church of the Brethren are expressing our deep sadness for the loss of this life,” said Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren. “Our tradition holds all life sacred, and we hold this child’s life as sacred. It tears at our very soul, that this precious life has been taken.”
Executive staff of the Church of the Brethren have been in touch with Blevins and her family since she left the orientation, and have kept in communication with her pastor and leaders of her congregation. “The church will continue to reach out to the family,” Noffsinger said.
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