By Ed Brock
A woman accused of kidnapping the child she was baby-sitting appeared in court Thursday, and the mother of the child testified on the woman's behalf.
After a preliminary hearing a judge decided that there was probable cause for the case against 39-year-old Teresa Diane Lofton of College Park to go to a grand jury for indictment consideration. Clayton County Magistrate Court Judge Keith Scott made that decision even though he said there appeared to be circumstances making Lofton a "sympathetic figure."
Lofton was supposed to take 3-year-old Chayna Gibson to a lake on Aug. 7 when she picked up the girl, said Gibson's mother, Markiba Smith Gibson, in her testimony during Thursday's hearing.
Instead, Lofton and a friend, Lisa DeFlanders, ended up taking the girl with them to Pascagola, Miss., to pick up DeFlanders' children. They stayed there overnight without calling the Gibsons to let them know where their daughter was, resulting in police issuing a Levi's Alert for the missing girl.
Markiba Gibson said she had known Lofton for more than four years and trusted her completely with Chayna.
"It was a good relationship," Gibson said. "My daughter loved her."
Lofton's attorney, Robert McNeese Jr., asked Gibson if she wanted the charges against Lofton to go forward, but Chief Assistant District Attorney Cliff Sticher objected to her answering the question because Gibson had no say in the matter. Scott upheld the objection.
After court Gibson refused to make a comment.
"I don't even want to talk about it," Gibson said.
Gibson met Lofton at a gas station in Forest Park around noon on Aug. 7 to give her the girl, Forest Park Police Department Detective Sgt. Marc Grunden said in his testimony. When Gibson went by Lofton's house around midnight that night to get the girl she discovered that nobody was home and, knowing Lofton did not have the means to drive anywhere, she grew concerned and called police.
According to Grunden they did not hear anything from Lofton until about 11:30 a.m. the next morning when Lofton called from a number in Pascagola. In that call she told Chayna's father that she was actually making a three-way call through with Lofton's daughter in Pascagola but that she was actually in a hospital in Mobile, Ala.
Lofton told the Gibsons that her father had been in a car wreck in which his girlfriend had been killed and that was why she left town, Grunden said. Later Lofton admitted to him that that story was a lie, Grunden said.
The father offered to come get the girl but Lofton told him that she was coming back to Georgia. Later that evening she called again from a payphone, saying she was at the Waffle House on Ga. Highway 138 in Union City close to the Interstate 75 exit, but when police arrived they found her at a BP gas station near the exit.
DeFlanders was at a nearby McDonald's and, Grunden said, she had denied taking Lofton or Chayna with her to Mississippi. In her testimony DeFlanders said they split up because she was scared.
Also, DeFlanders said Lofton had told her that she had not told the Gibsons about taking the girl to Mississippi but that she would call them once they arrived.
"I felt like she should have let the parents know," DeFlanders said.
McNeese said that Lofton, in pain from an illness he would not define, had taken some pain medicine that caused her to fall asleep. She woke up the next day scared and very concerned for Chayna's parents, McNeese said.
"She did not know that this was going to be the extensive trip it became," McNeese said.
Grunden said that when he asked Lofton why she took the girl to Mississippi without telling the parents Lofton said it was because she didn't think the Gibsons would have let her go.
A $10,000 consent bond has been set for Lofton but McNeese had been asking for a hearing to discuss the bond. Scott told him that hearing had to be held in Superior Court.