The mentally disturbed mother of a young girl who was found walking alone in the Westgate neighborhood of surburban West Palm Beach has been charged with child neglect without bodily harm, according to a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office affidavit.
A passing motorist found the child, who is believed to be five or six years old, around 8:30 a.m. Saturday walking along the south side of Okeechobee Boulvevard near the Westgate. The mother, Julie Gramson, told detectives she was protecting her child from her daughter's grandfather. Gramson claimed her father threatened to kill her and take her daughter away.
But Victor Rodriguez, Gramson's boyfriend, told a detective that Gramson is bipolar and that she was released from St. Mary's Medical Center's mental health department on Thursday. He said Gramson had been acting strangely the night before the girl was discovered walking alone.
Court records show that Gramson, 43, of West Palm Beach, was involuntary committed to mental health facilities last week and twice in 2007.
Gramson told the detective that she took her daughter and hid in the bushes on Cherry Road and Beach Road in West Palm Beach, where she lost her. Gramson said she spent all day looking for her daughter, but that she didn't call police because she didn't trust them. The mother said she saw her father with a gun and driving a black pick-up truck.
The blond-haired, brown-eyed girl was found unharmed. Sheriff's deputies initially thought she was hearing-impaired. Attempts by deputies to communicate with her using sign language were unsuccessful, said sheriff's spokeswoman Teri Barbera.
The child, however, is autistic and a student at a West Palm Beach school for autistic children.
The sheriff's affidavit states this isn't the first time Gramson left her daughter alone. A neighbor told detectives Gramson walked off, leaving her daughter by herself two years ago.