Woman arrested for leaving newborn with stranger in park in Sarasota, deputies say

SARASOTA, Fla. - Deputies arrested a Bradenton woman on Tuesday night for child neglect after she left her 2-week-old niece with a stranger at a park in Sarasota.

According to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Stephanie Fetner, 48, and Courtney Thompkins, 34, met a woman, who was a stranger to them, two weeks ago when Fetner brought a newborn baby to Bee Ridge Park. Fetner told the woman she was the aunt of the newborn's mother, later identified as Thompkins. The woman told deputies that she watched the newborn in order for Fetner to play in a softball game that day.

The woman told deputies that on Tuesday, Fetner, Thompkins and the now 2-week-old baby arrived at the park. She stated that she heard from other people that Thompkins was the newborn's biological mother, but that Fetner was appointed the baby's caregiver by Manatee County Child Protective Services. 

The woman agreed to watch the newborn while Fetner played softball.

The woman told deputies that Thompkins appeared to be very intoxicated and was concerned about the safety of the child. During this time, the woman and Thompkins discussed the having the woman take the newborn for the night in order to give Thompkins and Fetner a rest. Both Thompkins and Fetner agreed to have the woman take the newborn. The woman told deputies that Fetner said she did not have any formula for the newborn.

According to the woman, before Fetner and Thompkins left the park after the softball game, she gave them a handwritten note with her name and phone number on it. Neither one of the women requested any additional information they had just met two weeks prior. They also did not give the woman any information to contact them.

The woman told deputies that she would have had no way to contact the mother or the child's legal caregiver if the newborn needed any medical assistance.

Fetner and Thompkins had told the woman the day before that the newborn had a doctor's appointment at Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies the next day, the woman told deputies.

According to deputies, around 10:47 p.m., the woman received a text from Fetner saying that she was checking the phone number. Fetner did not ask about the welfare of the newborn. The woman never replied to the text. The woman did not receive any other texts or calls from that number or any other numbers.

Fetner and Thompkins were then contacted by the Bradenton Police Department and Manatee County Child Protective Services where they agreed to go to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office for interviews. According to officers, neither Thompkins nor Fetner were in any condition to drive.

According to MCCPS, Fetner was intoxicated and Thompkins was severely intoxicated and would be in no condition to care for the well-being of the newborn or provide concent for an unknown individual to care for the newborn.

Fetner, the newborn's appointed caregiver, told deputies that she allowed the woman to watch the newborn two weeks prior, but did not know her personally. Fetner claimed that the woman gave her a business card with her name and phone number on it. She showed deputies the womans' business card, which deputies noted did not have the woman's name or phone number on it. 

Detectives attempted to interview Thompkins but say that they were unable to obtain a statement because she was too intoxicated and was unable to speak coherently. Thompkins was transported to the hospital.

"Fetner was appointed as the newborn's caregiver. Fetner gave the child to a complete stranger with nothing to ensure the newborn's basic needs were being fulfilled," the arrest affidavit reads.

Fetner was arrested and charged with a single count of Child Neglect. She remains in custody on a $20,000 bond. 

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