Never mind that we've gone from Code Orange to Code Yellow. We are, alas, a nation always on alert, always vigilant to spot a plotter, catch a terrorist, videotape a vile deed, and call the cops when things seem amiss, especially things involving children. After a summer of snatchings and killings of kids, adults remain at Code Red.
And so physician Jack Haberman, semi-retired and in his 70s, had no idea what he was walking into when he went to his local New Jersey drugstore to retrieve some photos.
He had no idea that a photo finisher, alarmed by the nudity of a little girl depicted on the doctor's film, had called the cops. And the cops who lay in wait for the doctor had no idea that the case they thought was about child pornography would instead become the latest odd twist in the awful tale of the Indiana child used as a punching bag by her mother and caught by society's vigilance, on videotape.
Haberman was picked up Saturday as a suspected sicko, though all he'd done was examine 4-year-old Martha Toogood, then stand by while Madelyne Gorman Toogood took photos to show there were no marks on her daughter after she punched and jerked her several times. Toogood turned herself in to Indiana police Sunday and was arraigned Monday on a felony child battery charge.
And Tuesday, Haberman's attorney, the cops and the prosecutor spent the day trying to explain how the case found its way from Indiana to the Jersey Shore.
Haberman lives in the idyllic community of Spring Lake Heights, about 50 miles south of New York City, and works just down the coast in Bay Head. He did not return calls to his office but his attorney, Gregg Trautmann, was only too happy to explain his client's minor role in the beating case.
"When it comes to children, you can't be too vigilant, and I think these people acted as any responsible adult would," Trautmann said of the workers at the Spring Lake, N.J., Eckerd store. Trautmann said Toogood was put in touch with Haberman through another New Jersey lawyer. The photos, along with Haberman's medical report, were to have been shipped to Toogood's defense attorneys in Indiana.
"The doctor understands that the investigation is sort of the normal course of things. He wishes it didn't have to occur, but he knows that the police are doing their job and he was happy to assist."
Kenneth Keller, the deputy first assistant prosecutor of Monmouth County, said: "The doctor, I should stress, was never arrested. He voluntarily submitted to questioning. He turned over a copy of his report to show what he was doing. So we're just finishing up. Our job is to try to ascertain as best we can that his version of events is accurate and truthful."
Monday, the New Jersey authorities talked to their counterparts in Indiana and began confirming the doctor's story. By week's end, when all his reports are done, said Keller, the case that never was will officially be closed.
Trautmann said that Toogood apparently once resided in New Jersey, where previous news reports said she holds a driver's license, along with licenses in Indiana, Missouri and Texas. She says she's a member of the Irish Travelers, an insular clan of itinerant workers.
She became a wanted woman after Indiana authorities released a Sept. 13 security camera videotape showing her beating Martha in a shopping center parking lot. News channels saturated the airwaves with the video last week, perhaps helping to flush out Toogood.
By last Friday she was in Bay Head, overseeing Haberman's examination of Martha, then using a disposable camera to photograph the child for the sake of evidence, Keller said.
The photo clerk on duty at the Eckerd drugstore on Saturday had no clue that the child whose nude image he processed was the same child from the infamous videotape. All he knew was that it didn't seem right for a child somewhere between the ages of 4 and 7 to be photographed nude. Eckerd, based in Largo, Fla., said in a statement hat it is store policy for police to be called if film brought to the chain appears to depict an illegal act.
"The pictures, in addition to not being very clear, they're not terribly well composed either, so it's kind of hard to tell what's going on," Keller said. He added that, based on his own viewing of the pictures, it would not be unusual for anyone "to look at these and say, 'Whoa, what do we have here?' "
Down in Spring Lake, Eckerd workers who were beleaguered all day by inquiring reporters weren't talking-about anything.
Asked her last name, an assistant manager named Louise deadpanned, "I forgot it."
Asked if the manager was available, she said, "The manager's on vacation. Isn't he lucky."
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