Wilson County authorities arrested Haley Williams on June 14. She was charged with stealing her foster mother's $50 cell phone. The magistrate said she must be released into the custody of the Craven County Department of Social Services, where she's from.
"I think the magistrate had good intentions and fully expected someone would come get this kid right after they were arrested," said Chief District Judge William Farris.
But they didn't. Farris said no one expected her to stay in jail so long, but they had to make sure she was released into proper custody.
"She had no home to go to," said Farris. "The complaining witness was her foster parent and apparently did not want her back in her home. We couldn't put her out on the street."
Craven County Social Services, citing state law, said it couldn't comment on specific foster care cases, but one manager told WRAL: "Anytime we have a child in our care placed in jail, we have constant communication with the child, jail employees and the judge to ensure their safety." Williams' foster mother, Oglatha Woodard, also declined to comment.
Farris said if Williams wasn't 16 and in foster care, she would likely have been released on her own on a $500 unsecured bond, and if she was charged with a more serious crime she would already have made her first appearance in court.
Farris said he just found out Williams was still in jail on Monday. He appointed an attorney and called Craven County Social Services himself.
"I just asked them to come get their ward, and they agreed," he said.
Someone finally picked Williams up Wednesday evening, two weeks after her arrest. The Wilson County Sheriff's Office said she was kept with the general female population during the day, but always slept in her own private cell at night. She's due in court July 10 to face misdemeanor larceny charges.
Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.