Tammy Lynn Giles, the Waldorf baby sitter who disappeared with a 22-month-old baby last month, is scheduled to make her first appearance today in a Charles County, Md., court on charges of kidnaping and abducting the child.
Giles, 14, ended a six-week search by authorities when she turned herself in to Pittsburgh police Saturday and told them the baby had been left in a Dallas motel. The child, Michael Justin Fitzgibbon, was returned to his parents Sunday.
At today's preliminary hearing, Circuit Judge George Bowling is to decide if Giles should be released to her parents or kept in police custody until her case is tried. Giles, described by authorities as a habitual runaway, is charged as a juvenile.
Her odyssey began Aug. 4, when she volunteered to babysit for the Fitzgibbon child, who was in the care of his older sister while his mother was away. Giles hitchhiked with the baby to Breezewood, Pa.; a truck driver later reported giving the two a ride to Phoenix.
Police records in Dallas show that Michael was found wandering in a park near a busy street in that city Aug. 14. Police turned the child over to officials with the child welfare division of the Texas Department of Human Services.
Bill Betzen, a night supervisor with the welfare agency, told the Associated Press in Dallas Sunday that the child was returned to Giles Aug. 15, the following day, because she was able to identify him. He said no documentation other than personal identification was required and that the child seemed to know the young woman.
"We're very sorry the child was not returned sooner to [his] family," Juana Hill, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Human Services, said yesterday, declining further comment.
Although an all-points bulletin had been relayed to all law enforcement agencies in the nation alerting police to the search for Giles and the baby, Dallas police and welfare workers apparently did not make the connection with the child found in the park.
Sgt. Casey McDevitt of the Charles County Sheriff's Department said the pair also was listed with a nationwide missing children's network and that he had mailed individual flyers and photographs to hundreds of police agencies in cities and towns where Giles had been known to travel, including Dallas-Fort Worth.
"We're not blaming the Dallas police," McDevitt said yesterday. "The only thing is, I wonder what kind of identification she produced to get the child back. I know they had the opportunity to know about this case, but it's one of those things."
Dallas police refused to comment on the case yesterday because, they said, it involves juveniles.
Bob Hayworth, program director for child welfare in the Texas Department of Human Services, told the Associated Press that there are no plans to reprimand the caseworkers who returned the boy to Giles.
Betzen said workers didn't question Giles about her youth because "there are many 14-year-old kids that can pass to be older . . . . We do have people that age that have children in this town.
"This one," he told the Associated Press, "obviously slipped through."