New Jersey State Police have arrested a Millville Township mother after she allegedly abandoned her 10-year-old son with special needs in the woods.
On Thursday, Aug. 3, a passing driver noticed the boy in a wooded area near the visitor’s center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. The motorist contacted personnel at the nearby military facility who brought the child to the visitor’s center.
After an evaluation, it was determined that the boy had minor but non-life-threatening injuries. Investigators say the boy told employees that his mother walked him into the woods with his luggage and left him there.
The boy then said he fell asleep in the woods and woke up hungry before being spotted. The boy was able to provide his mother’s name and phone number to employees who then contacted the woman, investigators said.
Debra Wisler, 39, was taken into the Bordentown Station by Police the following day for questioning. Detectives determined that when Wisler discovered her son was not eligible for a program at Joint Base McGuire-Dix, she walked him into a nearby wooded area and left him by himself.
Wisler was arrested at the station and charged with endangering the welfare of a child. She was released pending a court date. NBC10's Denise Nakano visited Wisler's home Tuesday but was told to leave.
"I want you to leave," Wisler said. "Get off the premises. The cops are on their way."
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Wisler said she had hired a lawyer but did not reveal who.
Responding State Police detectives assumed custody of the child. The Division of Child Protection and Permanency was contacted and able to locate a temporary home for the boy.
Neighbors of the boy and his mother told NBC10 they were stunned by the allegations.
"I can't imagine someone leaving their child, especially someone disabled with special needs," said Vanessa Jones.
Barbara Todd, who worked as the boy's teacher's aide at Silver Run Elementary School for two years, told NBC10 she knew Wisler as a loving and caring mother.
"Mom adores him," Todd said. "She just adores him. I don't know what happened. Something had to happen."