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After no one answered the mother's call home, police recover the frightened 3-year-old miles away.
By MICHAEL SANDLER
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 16, 2000
TAMPA -- The parents trusted her with their child.
It was dark out and they were both out of town, so they expected the nanny to be inside their Hunter's Green home with their 3-year-old daughter.
Instead, the child was miles away in a strange house near Lowry Park Zoo. Tampa police found the nanny clutching the girl in the living room late Wednesday night. Police said the nanny earlier had been snorting cocaine and drinking beer.
The child was unharmed and returned to Tae and Eric Bronner, both of whom are back home in New Tampa. But the scenario invokes a chilling fear shared by many working parents who rely on others to care for their children.
"She was dirty, and she was terrified of the strange house," said Officer Carl Milillo of the child he found after an hours-long search. "I would never put my child through that, or any child through that."
Theresa Ann Corbin, 38, of 2402 Blind Pond Ave. was charged with child abuse, interference with custody, false imprisonment and possession of cocaine -- all felonies -- and a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. Corbin, who was released from Hillsborough County Jail after posting a $16,500 bond, could not be reached for comment.
The Bronners did not wish to comment except to thank police for returning their child unharmed.
"The police here in Hunter's Green did a tremendous job helping us out, and it's greatly appreciated," said Eric Bronner. "They came, tracked down the lead and found our daughter."
Mrs. Bronner, a lawyer, was in Fort Lauderdale, and her husband, a TECO executive, was in Washington, D.C., police said.
Police said Mrs. Bronner called home on Wednesday to check on her daughter, but no one answered. So she called a neighbor, who had a key, and caught an earlier flight back that night.
While she flew back, police contacted Tampa Bay Nannies, the agency that placed Corbin with the Bronners in October.
"The evening police called me, I was totally out of my mind," said Eva Becenti, who runs the agency. She called Corbin's mother, who reached Dawn Kirkman, Corbin's best friend.
"Just by assumption, we narrowed it down to where she probably could be," said Kirkman, who led police to a home near N Florida and E Sligh avenues.
Milillo knocked on the door and an unknown woman answered. He asked whether a woman named Theresa was there with a 3-year-old child. The woman said yes, and let him in.
Milillo found Corbin holding the child in her arms in the living room. She tried to hide in the kitchen. Milillo asked Corbin to come outside, but she refused and clutched the child closer to her chest, the report said. He grabbed her by the arm and attempted to escort her, but she pulled away.
He then forcefully grabbed her by the arms and pulled her out of the house. In his report, he noted a strong odor of beer on her breath and noticed that she was not completely in charge of her faculties.
"She was very jittery and shaky," he wrote, "as if she may have been on some sort of narcotics."
Milillo said the scene was troubling, even for a police officer.
"I did not talk to her much," he said. "I did not want to. I was kind of upset myself. And I did not want to upset the baby."
After advising Corbin of her rights, Milillo said the woman told him she had a cocaine problem, but that she had quit using the drug three weeks earlier. Police later searched Corbin and found a 2-inch red straw containing white powder residue, which later tested positive for cocaine.
"I know she does have a problem," said Kirkman. "We are best friends. What she does is her own business. I don't judge people. I've tried to help her."
Records show Corbin has been arrested twice before. Charges from a 1987 incident involving possession of narcotic equipment in Daytona Beach were dismissed. In May, she was charged with forging checks, according to records and Becenti, but that case has yet to go to trial.
Becenti said a national criminal check on Corbin conducted last March showed she was clean, so she placed her with a family. When Corbin went to the agency for work again, Becenti said Corbin told her of the forgery charges that occurred in May, but insisted she was falsely accused.
Becenti said Corbin told the Bronners of the arrest.
"She told them right away during the interview and that she did not do it," Becenti said. "They loved her and the girl loved her. They hired her because the child took right away to her."
Becenti said Corbin will have a hard time finding work.
"I am in business to help children, not harm them," Becenti said. "She has to go somewhere else to find a job, and I am sure she will not find another job in Tampa and Florida."
- Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Michael Sandler can be reached at (813) 226-3472 or firstname.lastname@example.org.