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'It's utterly horrific': Neighbors react to dead fetus found near homeless encampment in Phoenix

Police said the estimated gestational age of the fetus is believed to be between 20 and 24 weeks.

PHOENIX — Police are searching for information on a fetus that was found dead in an area known as "The Zone," Phoenix's largest homeless encampment. 

Around 1 a.m. on Saturday, a caller reported that there was a child in the roadway near 11th Avenue and Madison Street, a police spokesperson said.

Officers arrived to find a fetus that had been abandoned in the area. The fetus was pronounced dead on the scene by the Phoenix Fire Department.

Police said the estimated gestational age of the fetus is believed to be between twenty and twenty-four weeks.

Joel Coplin's home overlooks the corner of 11th Avenue and Madison Street 

"I heard the helicopter," he said. "It sounded so close, like it was going to land on our roof."

He says what happened is hard to comprehend. "It's utterly horrific," he said. "They thought it was a doll at first, but it wasn't."

Coplin saw the police commotion and asked his neighbor about it later, who told him he'd seen somebody lighting something on fire. 

"[He told me] his fiance came and was trying to put the fire out, and then he went to stomp on it to put it out and realized it was a baby in there," Coplin recalled. "He saw the head, a perfectly shaped head, and little arms, hands, legs, chest. He grabbed his fiance and turned away so she wouldn't see it, and he was freaked out. He called 911," Coplin said. 

While heartbreaking, Coplin said it, unfortunately, isn't surprising. 

"Anything can happen around here," he said. "We're right down here in 'The Zone,' and anything and everything does happen."

It's why he says something must be done so another life, no matter its age, isn't lost. "It's unconscionable," he said.

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Authorities said that the remains were given to the Office of Medical Examiner for a postmortem investigation.

As it stands, police are still looking for information on what led up to the newborn being abandoned.

If you have any information, you are asked to call Phoenix police at 602-262-6151 or Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.

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Silent Witness: 

Arizona's Silent Witness program allows people to send in tips and share information about crimes happening within their local communities. 

The program shares unsolved felony case information in multiple ways, including TV, radio and social media. 

Anyone who has information on a crime or recognizes a suspect described by the program is asked to call 480-948-6377, go to the program's website online or download the Silent Witness app to provide a tip. The identity of anyone who submits a tip is kept anonymous. 

Calls to Silent Witness are answered 24/7 by a live person and submitted tips are accepted at all times. Submitted tips are then sent to the detective(s) in charge of the specific case. 

Individuals who submit tips that lead to an arrest or indictment in the case can get a reward of up to $1,000. 

Have a tip? Submit it on the Silent Witness tip form here. 

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