A woman who was mistakenly released from Berkeley County jail last week took her unexpected freedom as “the Lord’s will” and is now trying to enlist politicians to help her in a contentious custody fight for her child, her mother said Tuesday.
Berkeley County sheriff’s deputies have been looking for 26-year-old Neely Blanchard since a paperwork slip-up allowed her to walk out of the Hill-Finklea Detention Center on Nov. 25 while awaiting trial on various charges. Sheriff’s Capt. Rick Ollic said investigators don’t have a firm location on her but are running down a number of possibilities.
Her mother, Susan Blanchard of St. Augustine, Fla., said her daughter has called her from several phone numbers and she doesn’t know where she is staying. She said she’s not even sure Neely knows that deputies are actively looking for her.
Ollic, however, said Neely Blanchard “was well aware that she is supposed to be in custody.”
Neely Blanchard is awaiting trial on charges that she tried to drive off with her 4-year-old daughter without permission from Westview Primary School in Goose Creek in May. Blanchard, also charged with drug possession in the incident, does not have legal custody of the child. Custody belongs to the child’s paternal grandmother, according to police.
Blanchard, who has given addresses in Florida and Kentucky, had been free on $75,000 bail until Nov. 18, when a judge revoked her bond 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.
The order revoking her bond, however, was never placed in her file at the jail, and Blanchard walked free after posting $20,000 bail that had been set on a new charge of filing a false police report, authorities said.
Susan Blanchard said she knew there must have been a mix-up when her daughter called and said she was free.
“I said ‘You can’t leave there. There must be something wrong,’ ” she said. “She said ‘Well, they let me out, and it’s the Lord’s will evidently.’ ”
Susan Blanchard said her daughter is writing to senators and representatives trying to enlist their aid in her efforts to regain custody of her child. Neely Blanchard is convinced her child has been subject to abuse, and contends prosecutors and other authorities in Berkeley County have been unwilling to listen and instead have tried to keep her in jail to pressure her to plead guilty on the custodial interference charge, her mother said.
Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said that is not the case. Prosecutors have been working with Blanchard’s lawyer to try to resolve the case, whether it be through a plea or trial. Her bond was revoked by a judge after “thoughtful consideration and after fair hearings,” she said.
The paternal grandmother’s attorney has denied that any abuse occurred to the girl, and Wilson said two prosecutors found no evidence of abuse after extensively combing through multiple reports, interviews and exams.
Still, Susan Blanchard said she doesn’t know if her daughter will return to Berkeley County even if she learns she is wanted.
“They let her out,” she said. “Would you jump back in jail if they let you out on bond? Why go back?”
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.