The allegations back up a claim by the child's mother that a suspect in her son's abduction had tried to prostitute her

By Jeff Truesdell
December 21, 2020 10:59 AM
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Two people have been charged in the alleged kidnapping of a 2-year-old boy abandoned at a Goodwill donation center in Mississippi.

Authorities who announced the charges against Jeremy Fitzgerald, 34, and Turliscea Turner, 29, backed up the allegations by the child's mother that Fitzgerald had attempted to prostitute her, and that the boy had been abandoned after she refused, and that his abandonment was without her knowledge or participation.

According to allegations in a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Tennessee, Fitzgerald offered to have Turner, who was posing as Fitzgerald's sister, babysit the child while Fitzgerald and the child's mother traveled from Memphis to Nashville on Dec. 13. Turner agreed to watch and kept the child overnight.

While traveling with Fitzgerald, the boy's mother, Antoinette Smith, said she was told that the "sister" was actually the man's girlfriend, reports Memphis TV station WREG.

Child left at Goodwill donation center in Southaven, Mississippi
| Credit: Southaven Police Department

"While Fitzgerald and the child's mother were in Nashville, Fitzgerald demanded that the child's mother work for him as a prostitute," the U.S. Attorney's Office alleges in the release. "When she refused, Fitzgerald left her in Nashville. He did not answer her repeated telephone calls."

"Fitzgerald did, however, speak to the child's aunt. In that conversation, Fitzgerald demanded money for the return of the child. Turner was aware that Fitzgerald had demanded money in exchange for the child's return," the release alleges.

Suspect with abandoned child
| Credit: Southaven Police Department
Suspect seen with abandoned child
| Credit: Southaven Police Department

The news release continues: "The next morning, Fitzgerald, Turner, and an unknown subject drove and transported the child across a state boundary from Memphis to Southaven, Mississippi. 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 allegedly showed the maroon vehicle that Fitzgerald and Turner drove from Memphis to Southaven with the child inside. Authorities spotted the vehicle that afternoon, and when officers closed in, Fitzgerald crashed it and was taken to a hospital with minor injuries.

Officers found Turner inside a nearby Kroger, wearing the same clothing as in the surveillance video.

Both she and Fitzgerald were arrested.

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When he was left by the male suspect at the Goodwill center around 9:40 a.m. Dec. 14, the boy — who authorities have not named — had with him a plastic grocery bag containing a note and some clothing, according to the Southaven Police Department.

An employee at the Goodwill center earlier told WREG that the man had said "the child's mother couldn't care for him" before leaving.

The note left with the toddler reportedly read: "child abandoned … no phone number for mom."

If convicted of the kidnapping charges, each of the two defendants faces a possible sentence of 20 years and up to life in federal prison, five years to life of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

Attorneys for Fitzgerald and Turner were not immediately identified and it was unclear if either suspect has entered a plea.