White candles flickered in the darkness, illuminating the enclosure where a baby's body was found inside an apartment complex trash bin Wednesday morning.
A cross covered with flowers leaned against the cinder block wall where a child's drawing of a rainbow had been taped.
Brenda Adams fell to her knees to pray for the unknown baby with other Rancho Mesa Apartments residents who were stricken by the incident.
"I hope they find whoever did it fast," she said Wednesday night. "Someone is missing a grandson or niece or nephew. This is a tragedy." The dead baby was found in an industrial trash bin at the central valley apartment complex Wednesday morning, according to Las Vegas police.
Homicide Lt. Ray Steiber said it is unknown when the baby died. He said the baby was between 3 months and 6 months old, but did not yet know the child's gender, sex or race.
No suspects have been located, he said. Police believe the body was placed in the bin within 24 hours of being discovered.
"We're taking it slowly so we don't miss anything," Steiber said of the investigation Wednesday.
Multiple residents of Rancho Mesa Apartments, 2881 N. Rancho Drive, said a maintenance worker at the complex found the baby's body while working. They said crime scene investigators arrived, taped off a section of the parking lot between apartment buildings 7 and 8 and set up a tent over the trash bins. Hours later, one of the bins was hauled out of the complex.
While the scene was investigated, officers went door-to-door conducting interviews at the apartment complex. One witness, a 9-year-old boy, shared a potential tip.
The boy's father, who asked not to be named, said his son saw something unusual Tuesday night. The boy told police he was playing outside the family's apartment before bedtime when he saw a gray car parked near the trash bins between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. The boy said a man got out of the car and circled the cinder block structure that surrounds the bins several times before going inside. After leaving the enclosure, the man got in his car and drove away.
The father said officers pieced together a description of the man by asking the boy to compare the person he saw to people in his family's living room.
"They asked him how tall he was," the father said. "The officer asked him, 'Was he taller than me?' "
Police left the apartment with a description of a black male between the ages of 25 and 30. The boy said the man was between 6 feet 2 inches and 6 feet 4 inches tall and was thin, about 180 pounds. He also said the man wore his hair in dreadlocks or braids.
Officers told the family detectives would likely interview the boy again.
Another apartment complex resident, Christina Murphy, said she was not able to offer much help to the officer who knocked on her door Wednesday afternoon. The mother of three didn't hear about the grim discovery until a friend called her on the phone.
"It's sick," Murphy said. "There are programs now. If you can't support your kids or don't want them, there are programs. You can leave it at a church. Why put it in the garbage?"
Steiber urged parents and caregivers to seek public services for their children during times of personal crisis. The state's Safe Haven Law allows parents to leave a child within 30 days of birth at an emergency service provider. Adoption is an option for children older than one month.
Nine months ago, police investigated a similar case after a homeless man searching for scraps found a baby girl in a trash bin at the Bella Estates Apartment Homes on Twain Avenue near Nellis Boulevard.
She was never identified. Her parents were never found, and a cause of death was never determined.
Those who gathered at the trash bins near the back of the Rancho Mesa complex Wednesday night hope this case turns out differently.
Dameishia Howard said a prayer at the impromptu memorial for the baby, keeping her voice quiet so she wouldn't wake her son, who was snoring softly in her arms.
She asked God to watch over the baby who had been thrown away. She asked God to watch over all children.
All who had gathered said, "Amen."
Anyone with any information concerning the baby found Wednesday is urged to contact the Metropolitan Police Department's Homicide Section at 702-828-3521, or Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555.