Diana Elliot was feeling overwhelmed when she left her 14-year-old son Sheldon, who has down syndrome, at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. She was arrested on Wednesday and charged with first-degree child cruelty.
Elliot was granted a signature bond Thursday in lieu of the $10,000 payment by a judge, WXIA’s Kaitlyn Ross reported. She was also granted a new support system, full of people she had never even met.
“Diana turned around and gasped when she saw them in the courtroom,” Ross posted on Facebook. “She had never met any one of these women and started crying when she realized they were there to support her.”
Other mothers who understand how she was feeling, showed up to court for her.
When the assistant district attorney asked Elliot where she would be living if released, Carla Griffin raised her hand.
“She will live with me. We are family now,” she said.
Griffin had a similar experience to Elliot 10 years ago, when she too left her 17-year-old special needs son at the hospital.
Elliot also found encouragement in the courtroom through the organization Black Mama’s Bail Out, who according to Ross, was willing to pay any expense it would take to get her out of jail. Other mothers with children who have down syndrome were also found in court supporting Elliot.
“This isn’t just today. We are not leaving her. We are not leaving this family. We are in this for the long haul,” said Sheryl Arno, Executive Director of the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta.
The association has set up a donations fund for Sheldon, Elliot and their family.
The 37-year-old left the eldest of her four children outside the hospital in a red minivan on December 4, reports The Washington Post. A nurse noticed the nonverbal teenager while on her break, Lieutenant Jeff Baxter said Tuesday in a press conference. After days of searching, police finally found who left Sheldon.
The single mother was living out of a hotel in DeKalb County at the time.
“She indicated that there were a lot of things going on in her life that were making it hard for her to support her family,” Baxter said. “She just kind of felt like she could no longer care for her kids.”
Baxter said there are certain responsibilities that come with raising a child, but he also could not imagine the difficulties in raising a special needs child.
Before her arrest, Elliot had no prior record. Her children were placed in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services.
Macon defense attorney, Brian Jarrad, represented her pro bono. He too raises three children with down syndrome.
The Department of Children and Families still has custody of her children. Until she regains custody, she will be able to see them if and only when the department allows, reports CBS 46.