MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) – Two people are facing federal kidnapping charges after a 2-year-old boy was abandoned Monday at a Goodwill store in Southaven, Mississippi.
Jeremy Fitzgerald, 34, and Turliscea Turner, 29, both of Memphis, have been federally charged in a criminal complaint with kidnapping, U.S. Attorney Michael Dunavant announced Thursday.
The boy was taken by Mississippi Child Protective Services.
According to the complaint, Fitzgerald offered to have Turner, posing as Fitzgerald’s sister, babysit the child while Fitzgerald and the child’s mother went to Nashville overnight on Dec. 13.
“While Fitzgerald and the child’s mother were in Nashville, Fitzgerald demanded that the child’s mother work for him as a prostitute. When she refused, Fitzgerald left her in Nashville. He did not answer her repeated telephone calls,” Dunavant’s office said in a news release.
Fitzgerald did, however, speak to the child’s aunt, demanding in exchange for the boy’s safe return, the release states. Turner was aware that Fitzgerald had demanded money in exchange for the child’s return, investigators believe.
“The next morning, Fitzgerald, Turner, and an unknown subject drove and transported the child across a state boundary from Memphis to Southaven, Mississippi,” according to the release. “When they stopped at a gas station, Fitzgerald took the child out of the car to a nearby Goodwill store and abandoned him there. Turner went into the gas station; she knew that the child had been left at the Goodwill store.”
Surveillance video recorded Dec. 14 shows the maroon vehicle that Fitzgerald and Turner had driven to Southaven with the child traveling along Germantown Parkway in Tennessee’s Shelby County.
“When law enforcement responded to the area, Fitzgerald crashed the vehicle, and was later transported to a local hospital with minor injuries,” the release states. “Deputies found Turner inside a nearby Kroger, wearing the same clothing as in the surveillance video. Both subjects were taken into custody without further incident.”
Dunavant’s office said the case would be presented to a grand jury, which could add more charges.
Antoinette Smith, who said she was the child’s mother, said she never had any intention of giving up her son, whose name is Sergio. She said she was left in Nashville by a man after she refused to work as a prostitute.
“If I knew that, I said I wouldn’t have left my baby like that. Ain’t no way I would have left my baby. That’s all I got with me,” said Smith.
According to Southaven police, a man walked the child to the Goodwill around 10 a.m. Monday and took off. A woman was seen with him. The child had a plastic bag containing a change of clothes and a note.
An employee at Goodwill said the man walked up to him and said “the child’s mother couldn’t care for him” before walking away. That employee took the child, and authorities were contacted.
If convicted, the defendants each face a possible sentence of 20 years and up to life in federal prison, 5 years to life of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. There is no parole in the federal system.
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