Macel F. Poulson was watching the news Wednesday night when she saw something that shocked her -- the smiling face of an abandoned 20-month-old boy who had been living in her East Baltimore home until earlier this month.
Just last week, Mrs. Poulson had seen Florence M. Marzinske, the boy's mother and her son's girlfriend, and asked her how the child had been doing since the couple moved out.
She had no idea that a week earlier young John Steven Marzinske had been abandoned.
"I asked her about the baby, she said he was fine," said Mrs. Poulson, who had offered to care for the baby before asking Ms. Marzinske and her son, Rick J. Feist, to leave after five months in her home. "I asked her to give him a kiss, and she said she would."
Ms. Marzinske, 25, was arrested Wednesday night about 7 p.m. and charged with child desertion and non-support, said Lt. Edward Schmitt of the city police. She is being held in lieu of $25,000 bond and faces a maximum sentence of three years in jail for each of the two misdemeanor charges.
Mr. Feist, 24, will not be charged, since he is not the boy's father, Lieutenant Schmitt said.
The arrest came hours after the city Department of Social Services took the unusual step of calling a news conference in hopes of finding information that would lead them to the child's parents.
The boy was abandoned June 19 on Eastern Avenue by a man and woman who stopped Edwin Goodwin, whom they did not know, and asked him to watch the child for a few minutes.
When the couple did not return, Mr. Goodwin took the boy to a nearby fire station, and he was placed in the care of city social workers.
Ms. Marzinske insisted Wednesday night as she was being led to jail that she had been looking for her son but didn't know where he was.
"I got the wrong address from someone," she told Baltimore television station WBAL. "I never abandoned my kid, so don't make me look like a criminal."
But Mrs. Poulson said young John had been placed in a foster home once before, although she did not elaborate on the reason. Usually, children are placed in foster homes because of neglect or abuse.
Mrs. Poulson, a 42-year-old construction worker who lives in the 2200 block of East Lombard Street, said her son has been with Ms. Marzinske since she was one month pregnant with John.
"He looked after the child as if he was the father. He was a very good father," she said.
Now that the identity of the boy's mother is known, there will be a court hearing in about 30 days to determine where the child will live, said Sue Fitzsimmons, a spokeswoman for Baltimore Social Services.
"We will talk with the family and make a decision on what we learn in the 30 days and make a recommendation to the judge," she said.
The judge will decide what is best for the child based on testimony from Social Services, police and the boy's court-appointed lawyer, Ms. Fitzsimmons said.
Until then, John will remain in foster care.
When the boy arrived at Social Services, he seemed to respond to the name "Johnny" and appeared to be in good health and well nourished.
"There is no physical evidence of abuse, he does appear nourished, and he repeats nursery rhymes," Ms. Fitzsimmons said. "That shows someone did things with him."
But they knew little else, and efforts to locate his parents were unsuccessful.
Social Services officials got a court order Tuesday to hold a news conference to tell the boy's story and show his picture on television and in newspapers.
Normally, they are not allowed to discuss specifics of a case publicly.