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Woman given baby during flea market

Jean Melton went to a flea market hoping to find some cheap luggage, but wound up with a baby girl instead. Mrs. Melton told authorities that three men and a woman gave her the child after trying to sell the baby Sunday afternoon.

"I guess they found out they couldn't sell it, so they wanted to get rid of it somehow," she said.

But Manatee County sheriff's detectives, who caught up with the foursome late Monday as they applied to enter a homeless shelter, found no basis for a baby-selling case.

"From talking to everyone involved, and some independent witnesses, we felt there was a mutual agreement for this woman to take the kid," said sheriff's spokesman David Bristow.

He said the four people, including a married couple, had traveled from Portage, Ohio, with no job and no place to stay. To make matters worse, the child's mother still is weak from recent surgery to remove a brain tumor, Bristow said.

"These people are just destitute," Bristow said. "They felt the child would be better off with someone else temporarily. They had the address and phone number and intended to pick up the child. They didn't just drop off the baby and say, "See ya.' "

Mrs. Melton said the baby appeared to be in good shape, but hungry. After feeding the baby, she turned her over to the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services.

A hearing was set for today to determine whether the child should be returned to her parents.

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