In July 2018, a sheriff’s deputy came across a starving baby girl living in squalor, inside a filthy trailer with her father. The deputy had been responding to an unrelated call in San Bernardino County, California, at the time. Fearing for the baby’s life, the officer intervened.
Almost three years later, the little girl is now thriving in a new home after winning the hearts of her foster parents.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Richardson had been investigating a shooting in a Rancho Cucamonga neighborhood, and upon questioning neighbors, he was led to a man named Drake Petronzi in a mobile home.
Petronzi was found holding his emaciated baby girl in a wet towel.
The baby’s father insisted she was fed, but Richardson and his partner were not satisfied.
Noting a gun on the counter, the smell of rotting food, soiled furniture, and no electricity or running water in the trailer, the deputy took matters into his own hands, and he called for medical backup.
Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Melissa Siccama speculated that the baby may only have had three or four days left to live. “You could see her bones,” she said. “She was significantly dehydrated.”
The baby’s name was Payge.
She was also suffering from numerous signs of abuse and neglect, including a severe skin infection. An investigation revealed that Payge’s parents had plenty of formula but had neglected to feed her.
As Payge was cared for in the hospital, she gained weight, and she was eventually placed with experienced foster carers Dawn and George Huff by county social workers, where she received the love and care she needed.
Payge was officially adopted by the Huffs in August 2020.
Payge now also has an adoptive sister and two older siblings, and her life is filled with joy—a dramatic transformation from her previous situation living with her biological father, who is now scheduled to attend a sentence hearing in February 2021.
Richardson and Payge were recently reunited this month. She even gifted the deputy, who became emotionally invested in her welfare, a handmade card as a token of her family’s gratitude for his heroic act of intervention.
“This tops my career,” Richardson reflected. “I could retire tomorrow and be happy with my accomplishment. Just that one.”