When Tina M. Gallucci showed up for work at the Woodland Beach carnival yesterday evening, she sensed something was wrong. None of her fellow carnival workers would look her in the eye.
She thought she might be in trouble for missing work the night before. Gallucci had noidea her child had been taken from her.
Her 3-month-old baby's stroller and three infant seats were leaning against the wall of a community hall where they had just been filmed by a Baltimore television news crew, but Cassie -- the little girlGallucci left with two co-workers two nights before -- was nowhere in sight.
Gallucci, who operates one of the carnival rides, began screaming across the merry-go-round: "Where the hell is she? What's going on?
A reporter finally told Gallucci that her daughter had been taken into custody by the county Department of Social Services and that there was a warrant for Gallucci's arrest on charges of child abuse and abandonment.
"I didn't abandon her, I had a flat tire," she said showing a receipt for truck repairs dated the night before. "We had to walk 15 miles. There was no way we could call."
When Gallucci arrived at the Southern District police station to try to claim her baby, she was charged with parental desertion and non-support of a minor child.
The carnival workers said Gallucci had begun leaving her baby with another couple who also work for the traveling Winchester (Va.) Amusement Co. two weeks before, taking less and less responsibility for the child's care.
"The carnival is no life for a 3-month-old baby, and when Tina didn't show up for work or call last night (John) 'Shorty' and Marlene Morris contacted the police. It was really hard on them," said ride operator Jeff "Slim" Kline.
"We all loved Cassie. We were all pitching in for her formula and stuff. About half of the crew cried when the police came to take her away (Monday) night after work," Kline said.
Police spokesman Richard Molloy said the baby will be kept in a foster care home until the Departmentof Social Services determines whether Gallucci is fit to continue raising her.
Gallucci, 27, has no fixed address and has been living in a Laurel Motel while working for the carnival, co-workers said.