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Mother charged in abduction of 3-year-old girl

Posted November 14, 2008

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— Authorities have charged a Sampson County woman with abducting her 3-year-old daughter from her great-grandparents' care early Friday.

The girl, Chesney Anne Gaskin, was the subject of an Amber Alert but was found safe in Aiken, S.C., in the early afternoon.

Authorities say that Danielle Star Simpson, 24, was visiting her daughter and staying at the Clinton home of Chesney's great-grandparents, who have full custody of the girl. Simpson took off with Chesney sometime in the middle of the night.

"She was taking the girl to the girl's father in Alabama. ... And he had encouraged her to turn herself into a police department, any police department," Capt. Eric Pope, with the Sampson County Sheriff's Office, said.

A deputy who called Simpson's cell phone shortly after the abduction said she was very angry and not in a right state of mind, officials said. Simpson had a knife in her possession, authorities said.

Chesney's great-grandparents said that Simpson is bipolar and was off her medication.

"I almost had a heart attack. I was scared for that child," neighbor Jane Bradshaw said. "She (the mother) is prone to just leaving her. ... Every day, all the time, mentally, I'm praying the baby will be all right and get back to her grandmama and grandaddy."

Law enforcement caught the the signal of Simpson's cell phone's signal in the early afternoon when it pinged off a tower in Aiken, about an hour south of Columbia, S.C., and more than 250 miles from Faison.

"We had tracked her to the area of the South Carolina-Georgia line, and we knew she was somewhere in the area," Pope said.

Simpson's mother, who was also in the car, then called police and handed the phone to her daughter. Sampson County sheriff's deputies talked to Simpson and convinced her to tell them where she was.

"She eventually let the detectives know she was at a McDonald's in Aiken, S.C. There are several McDonald's in Aiken, S.C.," Pope said. "So with the assistance of the Aiken Police Department, they blanketed the various locations, and they identified the suspect and the child."

Chesney was unharmed and will be reunited with her great-grandparents, Aiken police said.

Simpson was being held by Aiken police and will be transferred back to the Sampson County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities said she could face federal charges because she took Chesney across state lines. Sampson deputies said they will decide what additional charges to pursue after they interview Simpson.

Simpson, who also goes by Danielle Reynolds, went to court on felony financial-card fraud charge in April, according to court records. She was also charged with second-degree trespassing in 2006 and felony forgery of an instrument in 2005, but those charges were dismissed.

Neighbors of Chesney's great-grandparents said they were relieved to hear the girl will be coming home safely.

"They have raised her as their own, and they have taken good care of her," Bradshaw said. "They love that child as if it was their own."

"The potential is always there for things to turn out worse, and we can only hope for the best," Pope said. "And in this situation, things did work for the best. And the family can be thankful for that, and we are thankful for that as well."

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  • ghimmy51 Nov 14, 2008

    I have no doubt the earlier charges that were dismissed involved the grandparents. There is a LOT more to this story. The added details in this article only raise more questions about what's really going on here. This is why trials aren't conducted by phone in votes from the public and trials are often overturned when prosecutors conceal information. It's just not possible to know anything from a distance.

  • nealsgirl Nov 14, 2008

    I am so thankful this child is back with her grandparents.

  • JessGH Nov 14, 2008

    I was one of the early posters saying that not all mothers are safe protectors of their children, and now that the child has been found safe and sound...I haven't changed my mind one bit. She is clearly a criminal, bi-polar defense or not, and a direct danger to her child. I have 2 children of my own, and I'll be the first person to say that the act of reproduction does NOT automatically imbue you with the ability to raise them competently.
    Just glad the little girl is back home with the family members that seem qualified to care for her.

  • Havyn08 Nov 14, 2008

    RetGr6, sorry to burst your bubble, but I feel like I see amber alerts and silver alerts all the time these days. Those one or two bucks add up if you're calling 511 all the time (if it does, in fact, cost money - I still don't know). I really didn't mean to sound insensitive, and I do care, it's just that I don't have any extra money to throw around. I do what is in my means to help others.

  • teacher-mom Nov 14, 2008

    I am glad this ended well. I hope the child's mom gets the help she needs.

  • Adelinthe Nov 14, 2008

    They're sure not saying much about this, are they.

    The grandmother is with the mother in the car, but the great-grandparents have custody of the little girl.

    What's going on there?

    Just blessed the child is safe, and praying the child wasn't aware and afraid.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Eduardo1 Nov 14, 2008

    I am also confused about the fact that Simpsons mother was in the car. Any charge pending on her?

  • Mad Baumer Nov 14, 2008

    I wish that the Police would not release all of their technology to the public. Now, perhaps, someone who is wanted will get the heads up that their cell phone can be used to track them, and do something different. I know it was an interesting part of the story, but it should have remained covert in my humble opinion...

  • RetGr6 Nov 14, 2008

    Havyn08, who cares if it cost a buck or two if you can save a 2 year old's life???? Wow!

  • giterdungirl Nov 14, 2008

    Simpson's mother was in the car too??? They may need to check her out too....

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