NEW CASTLE, Del. — A Delaware woman charged with trying to sell her baby to a Philadelphia man for $15,000 denied the allegations Wednesday and said she loves her newborn son and wants to be with him.
Bridget Wismer told The Associated Press that the accusations against her and co-defendant John Gavaghan are the result of a big misunderstanding by authorities.
Police have charged Wismer and Gavaghan with dealing in children and conspiracy. They were arrested Friday after detectives said they confirmed the two were involved in the sale and purchase of the newborn, and the baby was placed in foster care.
Police found the baby at Gavaghan’s house when they arrested him. Gavaghan also thanked her for giving him a baby in a note at her baby shower.
On Wednesday, authorities served Wismer with a notice that they are asking for an emergency hearing to increase her bail. Wismer is currently free on bond. In the motion asking a judge to increase her bail, deputy attorney general Phyllis Scully alleged that Wismer posted her intention to sell her child on Facebook and intended to use the money for a trip to Disney World.
Wismer, 33, said Gavaghan, 54, is a friend who offered to help when she found herself pregnant, in a difficult home situation, and unwilling to get an abortion. She also says she didn’t want to give her baby up for adoption because she would never see him again.
“I was just waiting for a miracle,” she said, adding that she gratefully accepted Gavaghan’s offer to help. “I was so positive about what I was doing.”
Wismer said the charges stem from confusion on the part of her grandmother, who had alerted authorities that her granddaughter wanted to sell her baby to a homosexual couple.
The grandmother, Helen Aichroth, said she called authorities after her daughter, Linda Lawrence, told her that Wismer wanted to sell the baby. Aichroth said she later learned that was not the case and that she told a detective that as well. “I told him everything was fine,” she said, adding that her daughter has a tendency to tell fantasy stories.
Lawrence denied ever telling her mother or anyone else that Wismer wanted to sell the baby. She said her mother was the one who told her of a plot to sell the baby and asked her what Wismer planned to do with the money.
Lawrence said she jokingly replied that Wismer was going to Disneyland. “Isn’t that what you do when you hit the jackpot?” Lawrence said ruefully.
A statement of probable cause said that a tipster advised authorities that Wismer was trying to sell the child because she did not want it and sought money for a trip to Disney World.
Wismer said that while Gavaghan has given her money to help pay bills and take care of her baby and her two other sons, there was never any agreement to sell her baby. Instead, she agreed to let Gavaghan and his longtime partner, who has previously considered adopting a child, help her take care of the baby. Their friends and family members even celebrated with a baby shower about two we eks before the boy was born.
“Bridget, thanks with all our hearts for giving me and Antonio a baby,” Gavaghan wrote in a Hallmark card he and his partner gave Wismer at the baby shower.
“We love you, respect you and thank you with all our hearts,” Gavaghan added. “You made our life full.”
Wismer said a Division of Family Services worker had told her before the baby was born that DFS would close an investigation undertaken in response to the grandmother’s report, as long as social services officials in Philadelphia cleared Gavaghan. Delaware authorities who interviewed several people said they indicated the tipster was confused about the circumstances, according to the statement of probable cause.
Gavaghan was not immediately available for comment Wednesday. He spoke with Wismer by phone while she was being interviewed by the AP, but Wismer said Gavaghan did not want to talk to the media until he spoke to an attorney.
No one answered the door at a Philadelphia apartment that several neighbors identified as his.
However, he told police he arranged to take the baby and put himself down on the birth certificate as the child’s biological father, even though that was not the case, according to the statement of probable cause.
Wismer said Gavaghan was at the hospital for the boy’s birth. Authorities allege that Gavaghan agreed to pay Wismer an additional $2,000 to have his name on the birth certificate, an accusation she denied.
Wismer said Gavaghan offered a couple of weeks ago to send her and her children to Walt Disney World as a Christmas present, but that he did not want her to tell the children because he wanted it to be a surprise.
“He is the most generous person in the world,” Wismer said. Referring to the motion to increase her bail, Wismer said she doesn’t have a Facebook account.
Wismer said the charges against her and Gavaghan have left them both distraught and crying.
She spoke as she sat in the living room of her mother’s home, where a playpen and baby swing were tucked away in the corners, and cans of Similac powdered baby formula were stacked on the kitchen counter.
Wismer also denied claims by authorities that the boy was born addicted to opiates. She said her son was born healthy but had a reaction that she believes was related to a pain reliever she had taken during her pregnancy, as well as her smoking and drinking caffeine while pregnant.
Wismer said she was aware that Gavaghan, who authorities allege has sold prescription drugs and been a bookmaker, had a criminal history that includes pleading guilty to theft and bad check charges.
“I don’t think he’s a bad guy,” she said.
Associated Press writer Patrick Walters in Philadelphia contributed to this report.