Is Mother Unfit Or Unlucky?

May 31, 1991|By Robert Lee | Robert Lee,Staff writer

As Tina Gallucci sees it, her 3-month-old baby has been taken from her and she's stuck in a county jail cell for the crime of having a flat tire and a lousy job.

Gallucci is the woman who -- until Monday-- took tickets at the slide at the Woodland Beach Volunteer Fire Department Carnival on Mayo Road. Her daughter, Cassie, who was being cared for overnight by two of her co-workers, was taken to a county foster home after Gallucci failed to report for work Monday evening.

When Gallucci went to the police Tuesday afternoon to try to retrieve her daughter and explain her absence, she was charged with childabuse. A judge ordered her held at the county Detention Center on a $37,000 bond.

Calling from a pay phone at the Detention Center yesterday, Gallucci insisted she had no intention of abandoning her daughter but was delayed in returning to work because of a flat tire.

Now, she says, her entire life has collapsed and she doesn't know where to turn.

As an employee of the Winchester Amusement Co. of Virginia, Gallucci traveled around the region half the year, earning $175per week. After paying for her share of gasoline and a third of an un-air-conditioned Laurel motel room, Gallucci was left with $40 a week.

It was her concern for her daughter, Gallucci insists, that led her to make an arrangement with co-workers to keep Cassie overnight. For the past two weeks, John and Marlene Morris agreed to let the little girl sleep in their larger, air-conditioned room.

Gallucci, 28, had been relying on the Morrises more and more for their free baby-sitting services until Monday night, when Gallucci didn't show up forwork. The Morrises called the police after work, told officers Gallucci had abandoned the child and said they could no longer care for her.

But Gallucci says her old pickup truck got a flat tire on Route1 as she was on her way to work. She was unable to find an open service station and had to walk part of the way back to the motel. She has a receipt from an Exxon station for tire repairs dated Tuesday morning.

"There were no phones at the carnival, so how could I call? Ididn't think of calling the fire station 'cause I didn't think John and Marlene would do this to me," Gallucci said. "When I went to the police, they arrested me and now because I'm in jail that's a violation of my probation. So I'm stuck on a $37,000 bond."

Court records show Gallucci, an Alexandria, Va., resident, is on probation until 1993 for grand larceny and an attempted burglary in Fairfax, Va. She isbeing held, pending contact with her Virginia probation officer, police said.

John and Marlene Morris could not be reached at the carnival yesterday and did not reply to a message sent through a WoodlandBeach fireman.

Police spokesman V. Richard Molloy said the decision to seize the child and press charges against Gallucci -- though triggered by her apparent disappearance Monday -- was made because she had abrogated her responsibility for the child over a number of weeksand because of the poor living conditions in and around the carnival.

"She's predicating it all on that one night. She had been leaving the baby with (the Morrises) for weeks. . . . It would have been different if she had been living in ahouse. She had been leaving the baby in a trailer truck during the day with 90-plus degrees. It was nota stable environment. Sure, you can sympathize with her, but the welfare of the baby comes first," Molloy said.

Maryland American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Stuart Comstock-Gay said the arrest was uncalled for and serves neither mother nor child.

"Arresting her isnot a very helpful way for the state to address her problems or the child's problems. Maybe she showed some bad judgment by not calling, and maybe she needs help or supervision, but she arranged for the child to be taken care of. Her acts don't sound to me like they were criminal," Comstock-Gay said.

Helen Szablya, the director of public information for the Maryland Department of Human Resources, could notcomment on the specifics of the Gallucci case but said, "It is impossible to find somebody to take care of your child with take-home pay of $40 per week."

The median price of family day care in Anne Arundel County, she said, is $75 per week; group day care costs an average of $73 per week.

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