Mom accidentally freed from Berkeley County jail vows to face trial, fight for child
Look out Berkeley County: Neely Blanchard is heading back your way and she’s itching for a fight.
The 26-year-old mother of three said she is returning Thursday to South Carolina to meet with her new criminal attorney in the wake of a mix-up that allowed her to walk out of Berkeley County’s jail on Nov. 25 while awaiting trial on a variety of charges.
Blanchard insisted she didn’t know anything was wrong when jail officials set her free, and she was a bit perplexed by the commotion her departure stirred up.
She wouldn’t give her exact location, but Blanchard said she always planned to return to face trial and continue fighting for custody of her eldest daughter. Her current legal predicament is tied up in that fight.
“I am not trying to run away,” said Blanchard, who contacted The Post and Courier on Wednesday. “I am a great mom and I am fighting for my baby.”
Blanchard contends she is being persecuted for trying to win back her 5-year-old daughter and for threatening to sue Berkeley County officials for their handling of the custody case — claims that authorities strongly deny.
She said she was spending Wednesday afternoon making dozens of copies of a handwritten account of her alleged ordeal that she plans to send to politicians, prosecutors and anyone else she could think of who might aid in her quest.
“They are purposely trying to keep me in jail so I can’t sue them,” she said. “They are trying to shut me up, and I am not going to shut up. I am going to fight for my daughter.”
Blanchard, who also has 1-year-old twins, is accused of trying to drive off with her then-4-year-old daughter without permission in May from Westview Primary School in Goose Creek. Blanchard was charged with custodial interference because her daughter’s paternal grandmother has custody of the girl, authorities said.
She also was cited for drug possession in the incident, though she maintains she had a prescription for the pills she had.
Blanchard, who has given addresses in Florida, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, got out of jail in July after posting $75,000 bail, but a judge tossed her back behind bars Nov. 18 for violating the conditions of her release, court documents show. Among other things, she was accused of giving a friend in Goose Creek 20 Xanax pills to call 911 on Nov. 12 and falsely report that her daughter was being abused at her paternal grandmother’s home, authorities said.
Though the judge revoked her bond, the order never made it into her file at the jail, allowing her to post bail on the latest charge of filing a false police report and walk out.
Blanchard said jail officials informed her that she was free to go, and she assumed everything was on the up-and-up. “They told me ‘We don’t want to keep you anymore’ and they let me go.”
Sheriff’s deputies have been looking for her ever since. Capt. Rick Ollic could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but he has said the Sheriff’s Office is investigating the mix-up and would take appropriate disciplinary action.
Blanchard maintains that her daughter has been subjected to abuse outside her care, but prosecutors have said an extensive review did not produce any evidence to back that up.
Blanchard also insists that she has a valid court order to share physical custody of her daughter with the child’s father, and that a later order granting custody to the paternal grandmother was illegally issued by the Berkeley County Family Court.
Authorities and the grandmother’s attorney, Laree Hensley, said Blanchard’s version of events is incorrect.
“The record clearly establishes that Ms. Blanchard’s recitation of the facts lack truth,” Hensley said. “I am certain my client will feel safer when she is back in jail.”
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.