A 3-month-old Westwego girl covered in rat bites was found dead in her home Thursday and authorities are trying to determine if the bites played a role in her death.
Natalie Hill was found shortly after 7:30 a.m. in her crib by paramedics responding to an emergency call.
When paramedics and police officers arrived, they found the child's father standing in front of the house in the 700 block of Central Avenue, yelling that his daughter was dead inside, said Westwego Police Chief Dwayne Munch Sr.
Munch said officers found the child with what appeared to be hundreds of bite marks on her body and severe damage to her nose and right leg. The officers determined that rats or other small rodents had done the damage, from prints left behind on the bloody sheets in the crib.
The Jefferson Parish coroner's office has not determined the baby's cause of death. Munch said it is possible the child may have been dead before the rats attacked her because the girl's parents did not report hearing her scream. The adults were in the front room of the home before the baby was found, he said.
Munch said several of his officers were deeply troubled by what they saw. "This was not something you see every day," said Munch, who could not recall a similar case in decades of law enforcement.
Neighbors said rodents have been a problem in the area for some time and that rats have gotten into several homes.
Annette Stevens, who lives next door to the child's family, said the girl's parents always took good care of her and her siblings. She said the family was cordial and seemed happy.
"They never neglected the children, they were always clean and well-fed," Stevens said. However, she said rodents were often seen running through the streets, and she had seen Natalie's father outside laying rat traps in the past. Other neighbors said the city of Westwego provides rat poison to them to deal with rodents in the street.