South Carolina authorities have successfully identified a female toddler left abandoned on a stranger’s doorstep late last Tuesday as 4-year-old Zoe Brown of Marietta, Georgia.
Roy Campbell, the home’s owner where the child was dropped, explained to the media and Anderson County authorities that he recalled hearing the doorbell ring but didn’t see anyone. He inspected around his property, and, when he returned to the front, noticed a baby in a stroller.
The police were called and the child was taken to a local hospital. The child donned clothing sized for a 24-month-old and had chest scars indicative of prior heart surgery. She had a note pinned to her diaper reading “call DFAC please,” referring to the Department of Family and Children.
Officials reached out to various news and social outlets in order to garner tips that would lead to the identification of the abandoned child.
A tip led to the identification of the child and her parents. Zoe’s parents, 31-year-old Alonzo Brown and 37-year-old Tongela Denise McBride, were arrested Friday night. Brown was detained in South Carolina and Tongela in Georgia. She will be extradited to South Carolina, and both face charges of unlawful neglect of a child.
During Brown’s arraignment Saturday, Judge James Cox agreed with the statements of Anderson County official Marlene McClain, a victim’s advocate, who shared with the court, “This is a serious crime where a minor child with very severe medical issues was left abandoned without medication and without information, without instructions, on a stranger’s doorstep… We consider a person who would do that a serious threat to the safety of our community.” The judge denied bond.
Deputies believe the child’s mother will have a bond hearing in the coming week. Brown’s next court appearance is scheduled for May 3.
Per the South Carolina Daniel’s Law, caregivers are exempt from criminal prosecution if they drop a child at a state-sanctioned “safe haven” like a fire station, church, hospital, or school. However, the law is only applicable to infants under 30 days old.
Zoe is currently being kept in a foster home under the care of the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) until a family member can be found able to provide a safe environment.
Chad McBride, of the public information office for the Anderson County Sherriff’s Office, remarked on the enormous amount of people who called regarding the child – some with tips, others wishing to adopt the little girl.
South Carolina penal code statute 63-5-70, the unlawful conduct towards a child can be levied against anyone in charge or in custody of a child (parent and guardian) responsible for their welfare. Offenders are charged if they have been found to place the child under circumstances of unreasonable risk, cause unlawful or malicious bodily harm to the child, or willfully abandon the child. If found guilty of the offense, upon conviction, those cited can face a fine and imprisonment of no more than ten years, imposed by the discretion of the court.