TARPON SPRINGS — Cali’yah Anderson heard a scream Tuesday night and she thought someone was dying.
"Help me! Help me! I can’t get it out!"
Anderson sprinted into the living room at 1410 Starlight Cove two doors down from her own apartment and found a neighbor cradling her 5-month-old son. She was trying to pull something from his bleeding mouth.
The child’s father, Michael Hurley, stood behind the kitchen counter, motionless, Anderson said.
"He kept saying ‘I don’t know what happened,’?" Anderson said.
After several minutes, Anderson and the mother were able to remove something strange blocking the child’s throat — a wadded baby wipe.
It would take more than 30 minutes before someone called 911. The baby was rushed to a hospital, where he was placed on a ventilator.
Police would later arrest the baby’s father on a charge of attempted first-degree murder. He was being held late Thursday with bail set at $500,000.
Police said Hurley was at home alone with the baby when the mother arrived to find the infant choking. Anderson said the mother walked in to find Hurley holding the baby with his fingers down his throat saying he was trying to grab something but "his fingers were too big."
When officers arrived, Hurley told them he "knows this looks bad," according to an arrest report, and called it a "freak accident." He also said he couldn’t remember what happened.
Police were suspicious after finding the wipe, which was "securely balled up," the arrest report states.
Officers noted that the wipe was "completely saturated in blood" except in the deep folds of the balled-up wipe. This led officers to believe that the infant had not swallowed the wipe accidentally, but that someone had intentionally balled it up and stuffed it in the baby’s throat, the arrest report states.
The boy was taken to Mease Countryside Hospital and later transferred to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa and listed in critical condition. Anderson said police told her last night that the baby is now stable but on a ventilator.
Anderson, who has some medical training, hopes she got the wipes out soon enough to avoid permanent damage. After removing them, she worked to resuscitate the baby. He was gurgling blood, struggling to breathe.
"At one point his eyes rolled back into his head and he stopped breathing and I just yelled ‘You can’t die in my arms!’?" she said.
Anderson, 40, has lived at the Riverside Apartment complex for almost a year. She said that the mother, who’s lived there with her sons for about two years, fought often — and loudly — with Hurley.
She said the two broke up a little over two weeks ago and were sleeping in separate rooms. A few days prior to the incident, the mother asked Hurley to move out, according to Anderson.
The mother, who police have not named, declined to comment through detectives.
The incident began around 6:45 p.m. Tuesday. Anderson said she and the mother were begging Hurley to call 911 as they worked to save the baby. She said he didn’t seem to have any urgency. She said that even when the ambulance showed up, he stood back and watched.
"He (Hurley) wasn’t doing anything so somebody had to be there for her and help her out," Anderson said. "It’s by divine intervention we were all there."
Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird and staff writer Kathryn Varn contributed to this report. Contact McKenna Oxenden at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @mack_oxenden.