In five short, bumpy months of existence, little Daniel Conover has had more homes, and generated more legal entanglements, than kids many years his senior.
And now his mother just wants him back.
Jessica Conover, 28, of Fort Lauderdale, said she hopes to see Daniel for the first time in three weeks. She was in jail when her husband left the baby with a friend. The infant was later left outside a Davie fire station on Jan. 23.
"He's my valentine," said the mother, who intends to "hold him and hug him and play with him and love him" during a supervised visit with Daniel on Friday.
Conover appeared before a general magistrate Thursday afternoon in a hearing over the baby's future. She was given two court dates and will enter into mediation, then perhaps go to trial, where authorities will decide who will ultimately have custody of the baby. Daniel is now in a foster home under the supervision of the state Department of Children & Families.
"I've been talking to the right people," said Conover, who told CBS-4 television on Thursday that she was four months pregnant. "Doing the best I can to make things better."
Conover, an admitted substance abuser, will also voluntarily enter drug court, where she will undergo supervision and strict testing for drugs.
Daniel was dropped off at a Davie firehouse in a stroller with extra clothes. At 5 months, he was far outside the age limit of Florida's Safe Haven law, which allows parents to leave babies up to 7 days old at designated sites such as hospitals or fire stations without facing prosecution for child abandonment.
Conover was in jail at the time for violating probation in an aggravated battery case. She was arrested Jan. 3, accused of biting her husband, Robert Conover, 35, who she met when both were in recovery.
But the couple returned to drug use. "He relapsed after Danny was born and I relapsed with him," Jessica Conover said outside court.
Conover spotted Daniel on a jailhouse television the day he was dropped off at the fire station. "I looked at the TV and it was my son," she said. She immediately called a police hotline, then her husband.
Robert Conover, who checked himself into a detoxification center Wednesday night, has told the Sun Sentinel he left the child in Hollywood with a friend from Alcoholics Anonymous "so I could have some time to take care of the things I had to take care of."
An unidentified person then "forcefully picked up my son and decided he had the authority to take my son to the fire station," Jessica Conover said.
"It's completely illegal," she went on. "They're not the parents and Daniel was way over age" for the Safe Haven law.
"I'm in the process of talking to investigators," she added.
Davie Police Capt. Dale Engle said the person who dropped Daniel off had no apparent criminal intent and is unlikely to be prosecuted. "Any criminal charges would stem from what occurred in Hollywood," he said.
Hollywood Police Lt. Osvaldo Perez said his department is looking into the case. "We have an active investigation at the moment," he said. "We're working with DCF and the Davie Police Department."
Meanwhile, Daniel, oblivious to the hubbub around him, remains healthy in his foster home.
"The child is doing well," Magistrate Vicki Plant told Jessica Conover. "Do what you're supposed to do and you will be fine."
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