Deputies: Woman gave newborn to stranger at Sarasota Co. park

Stephanie Fetner, Sarasota County Jail booking photo

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Bradenton woman was charged with child neglect after deputies say she gave a two-week-old baby to a stranger at a park in Sarasota County. 

Deputies with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call about an abandoned infant just before 10 p.m. on Tuesday. The baby was at Bee Ridge Park, located at 4430 S. Lockwood Ridge Road.

Julie Durst, 45, told deputies that Hailey Thompkins, two weeks, was left in her custody by Stephanie Fetner, 48.

Durst said she met Fetner two weeks ago when Fetner first brought the baby to the park and told Dunst that she was the aunt of the newborn’s mother, Courtney Thompkins, 34. Durst told deputies that on the day she first met Fetner, she watched the baby so Fetner could play in a softball game at the park.

Durst told deputies that she does not know Fetner personally and they are complete strangers.

On Tuesday, Durst told deputies that Fetner, Thompkins and the baby showed up at the park. Durst said she agreed to watch the baby again while Fetner played softball. Durst told deputies that Thompkins appeared very intoxicated and she feared for the welfare of the baby.

Durst said that she, Fetner and Thompkins talked about Durst taking the baby for the night to give the women a break from caring for her.  The women agreed and Fetner told Durst that she did not have any formula for the baby. Durst gave Fetner a note that had Durst’s name and phone number.

Durst said that Fetner and Thompkins never asked her for her contact information like her address. They also did not ask for her identification to verify her identity. Dust said she also had no way of contacting the women either.

Fetner’s neighbors say they are shocked that she would leave the baby with a stranger.

“I can’t believe she’d do that. ‘Cause she told us, ‘you never know how much you love something until you hold it like this,’ and she said, ‘I just love this baby,'” said Ron Maugherman, who lives just across the street from Fetner.

Maugherman said he had just seen Fetner in her front yard with the baby.

“I come outside and seen her with the baby. She was coming out to the mailbox and I was going out to my mailbox and I told her, ‘Did you have a baby?’ She come on over and said, ‘No, my niece did.’ I said, ‘let me get my wife,’ because that baby was so small. I went in and got my wife and told her there was a little baby out here. She come out and held the baby, she was overjoyed,” said Maugherman, who added his wife would have been more than happy to care for the child if his neighbor needed a break.

“My wife was going over and tell her to, if she needed any help to watch the baby and she would watch her anytime,” said Maugherman

Deputies discovered that Manatee County Child Protective Services appointed Fetner as the newborn’s caregiver.

Deputies arrested her on one count of child neglect. Fetner was booked into the Sarasota County Jail with bond set at $20,000.

The child is now in protective care. The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office says there may be more charges filed in the case.

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