A mother was jailed Friday as police tried to find her missing baby.
While police officers search for the 3-month-old child, the court must sort through a series of stories that paint very different pictures of young Madison Green’s life.
Madison’s mother, Janel Davis, says her baby has been taken by a female gang member who intimidated and threatened her.
The mother of the alleged gang member says the baby ended up in her care after Davis abandoned the child, but that police returned the baby to Davis two weeks ago. Now the child is missing, and both sides say they don’t have her.
What is clear, attorneys said in court, that someone is lying. But who?
Police arrested Madison’s mother on two counts of perjury, accusing her of claiming she was not the baby’s mother.
They said they don’t think the baby is dead, suggesting Madison is with the gang member.
According to both sides, the female gang member is currently in Brooklyn, but lives in Schenectady. The court was given a cellphone number for her Friday, but she didn’t pick up the phone when Family Court Judge Mark Powers called during a court conference.
The gang member’s mother denied, in court, that her daughter has Madison.
“My daughter don’t have her baby,” she said.
Davis, 28, said her baby was taken by a member of the Cleanaz gang, which was once powerful in Schenectady. Police raids from 2004 to 2006 broke the gang, but members are returning now after serving prison sentences.
Davis’ attorney, James Martin, said she was terrified by the gang, so much so that she claimed the gang member was actually the baby’s mother when first confronted by social workers about her baby’s disappearance.
Davis has not retracted that statement, but her attorney declined to continue arguing that point in court Friday after meeting with her privately and urging her to tell him the truth.
Davis’ fingerprints also matched the fingerprints of the baby’s mother, taken by Ellis Hospital when Madison was born, according to city police.
Davis’ story suggests months of intimidation, in which a gang member took her child in order to obtain welfare. Martin said DSS did receive a fraudulent welfare request from the gang member using Madison’s birth certificate. On the certificate, someone had used white-out to erase Davis’ name and write in another name, Martin said.
Police also confirmed in court that on Jan. 19, they found Madison with the gang member’s family and returned the baby to Davis. Det. Anthony Brown implied in court that Davis called 911 to report her baby stolen, but he was not clear on precisely why police were called.
The family that had Madison tells a very different story.
Angelina McCovey, whose adult daughter Destiny is alleged to have the baby now, filed a court petition for custody. She wrote that she has raised Madison since the child’s birth in November.
“Janel Davis … left her and never came back for the Child,” McCovey wrote in the petition that was riddled with misspellings and errors in grammar.
She added that Davis did return once to bring the baby to a doctor. Madison was born with a mild case of spina bifida, attorney Martin said.
McCovey said Davis brought the baby back after the doctor’s appointment and abandoned her again.
“Janal has never done anything for that Baby I cared for her loved her took a lot of time with her and nourished her back to health,” McCovey wrote. “When the Doctors seen Madison they say it’s a mirrical how she has Put on weight.”
Making matters more complicated, Davis has allegedly neglected three other children, one of whom was taken away for adoption, according to DSS. In legal papers, caseworkers said she neglected her children because she was a substance abuser, has bipolar disorder, and left her children with “inappropriate caregivers.”
According to the papers, caseworkers got involved in the case because they had concerns about any baby born to a woman who had been accused of neglecting other children. On their second inspection visit to Madison’s home the baby was missing and Davis denied she was the mother.
Madison’s father also has a history of abuse, according to DSS. Caseworkers said in legal papers that a child of his died due to scalding. The papers did not specify how the child was scalded, but said he emotionally neglected his children and uses marijuana daily. The child who died was not related to Davis.
Caseworkers also said in legal papers that Madison’s father repeatedly attacked Davis.
The DSS paperwork does not seem to support McCovey’s allegation that she has raised the baby since birth. The papers say Madison was at home during multiple occasions during which her father, Deralle Green, behaved violently toward her mother.
However, the paperwork also says Madison was left with someone else “for weeks” when she was a newborn.
Judge Powers made no decisions regarding the case Friday, partly because Madison’s father could not be present. He was in City Court being arraigned, accused of not telling DSS where Madison is now. He was charged with criminal contempt and custodial interference. It’s not clear why DSS believes he knows where the child is.
Powers also criticized DSS during the brief court session.
A caseworker asked Davis to undress so she could look for a Cesarean scar to prove that Madison was her baby. The request was made after DSS had asked Powers to approve a medical search, and he had decided not to immediately grant permission, he said.
Davis’ attorney said the strip search was abusive.
“I think that is an outrageous abuse of the authority of the department. That is way beyond the authority of any social worker,” Martin said.
DSS attorney John Lockwood said Davis was not coerced or threatened into agreeing to the search.
“We asked if she’d be willing to and she volunteered,” he said.
Martin said Davis was too frightened to say no.
“In those circumstances, volunteering is not volunteering,” he said.
Powers agreed to some extent, saying DSS overstepped.
“Ordinarily, we do these things through the court,” he said, adding that he had ruled there was no need for invasive searches because DSS could prove Davis was the mother by checking her fingerprints.