Local News

Fort Bragg girl found safe in S.C.

Posted March 4, 2010 11:58 a.m. EST
Updated March 4, 2010 6:15 p.m. EST

— A 5-year-old girl who authorities said was abducted Thursday morning from Fort Bragg by her mother was found safe Thursday afternoon in South Carolina, authorities said.

Te'amani LeSha Gerald was found in North Charleston, S.C., at about 4 p.m. It was unclear Thursday afternoon if she was found with her mother or if her mother has been arrested.

Fort Bragg officials issued an Amber Alert for Te'amani after she was taken from the front yard of her home on Lapoterie Street in the Hammond Hills Housing Area on post at about 8:15 a.m. Tom McCollum, a spokesman for Fort Bragg, said she was waiting for her ride to Butner Elementary School at the time of the abduction.

The state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety said Te'amani was taken by her mother, Alexis D. Gerald, and her grandmother, Phyllis Gerald.

Te'amani lives with her father, Sgt. Alfonso Green, but he wasn't home at the time she was abducted, McCollum said.

Green said Te'amani has been with him for about a year, and Alexis Gerald was served with court papers Wednesday denying her legal custody of the girl. The couple was never married, he said.

"She doesn't have a stable place to live, and I feel that me doing this gives my daughter an honest chance of life," he said. "I wish she'd understand that, if she wanted her daughter to have a good life, she would let me keep her daughter."

Alexis Gerald parked down the street from Green's house, he said, knowing Te'amani would leave for school at about 8 a.m. When the girl came outside for her carpool, he said, her mother called her over and drove off with her.

"If she could do something like that, she doesn't care about my daughter's education," Green said. "Why would you snatch your daughter from going to school? Somebody who would do something like that really don't care about their kid or anything."

Witnesses said the women and Te'amani were in a 1999 black Chevrolet Suburban. McCollum said the vehicle left Fort Bragg before the post could go on lockdown.

An Amber Alert was issued about three hours after the abduction. McCollum said Fort Bragg officials initially were informed that the case wouldn't qualify for the alert, but that stance later changed.