The Southaven Chief of Police revealed that one of the suspects has been taken into custody.
A 2-year-old boy was found abandoned outside a Mississippi Goodwill store drop-off on December 14, with nothing but a plastic bag with a change of clothes and a note. Reporting about the news on their Facebook page, the Southaven Police Department wrote that the child was too young to reveal his name or the names of his parents or relatives. In the surveillance video that was captured, a man and woman can be seen driving a red car after they left the little boy all alone.
A Goodwill employee told WREG that the unidentified man told him that “the child’s mother couldn’t care for him." The note which read, "Child abandoned…no phone number for mom," was written on a paper towel. The child was immediately taken to police following which Child Protective Services was contacted.
The authorities were able to track down the suspects after receiving numerous tips from the community and took a suspect into custody. WHBQ reported that the Southaven Chief of Police Macon Moore confirmed that the suspect, whose name has not been released, was busted in Memphis along with the FBI's help just six hours after the toddler was found. However, they haven't revealed the charges being faced by the suspect.
Thanking the citizens, the department wrote on their Facebook page, “We would like to thank all of the citizens who showed concern for the child. Rest assured, he is well and being taken care of and will be reunited with family when CPS determines this is proper." Thanking the citizens for "tips regarding the suspects" they also stressed, "At this time the investigation is still on going, no suspect information or charges are being released."
During all this, a woman named Antoinette Smith, claiming to be the toddler's mother, came forward and said that she did not abandon her son. According to the information by the Goodwill employee, the man who dropped off the boy at the store said that his mother was unable to take care of him, however, Antoinette said that she had no intentions of letting her son go, according to reports by WREG. The boy has been identified as Sergio.
During a Facebook Live Broadcast with Memphis activist Barbara Buress, Antoinette revealed that on Sunday, December 13, she had traveled to Nashville with a male acquaintance, leaving Sergio with a woman who she believed was the man's sister. It's only later that she found out that the sister was actually the man's girlfriend.
“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 Antoinette. She then revealed that the man abandoned her at a Nashville store after she refused to work with him. “He was like, ‘You better get out there and sell some a**’ and all that type of stuff. I told him, ‘I’m not doing nothing.'"
According to Mississippi law, infants can be surrendered for up to three days after their birth but only to emergency service providers, according to Infant Safe Haven Laws. Loraine Cady who runs the House of Grace woman's shelter in Southaven divulged that she had helped new moms before but none of them had to go through times where they had to take the decision of abandoning their child.
However, she added that due to the changing times with the pandemic, new moms are under a lot of pressure. “The new mothers face really difficult situations because you can’t sleep in a car with a baby. You can’t sleep on a park bench with a baby. It has to have shelter,” she said.
Activist Buress told the outlet that arrangements would be made for Antoinette for returning to Memphis. The toddler is still in CPS custody.