Madelyne Gorman Toogood, 25, was arrested Saturday after finally surrendering to police in Chicago. When police in Michiana, Ind., released the tape of her beating her daughter, it shocked many people across the nation.
After being refused a refund in Kohl’s department store on Sept. 13, the woman returned to the parking lot where she started beating her daughter violently.
“It was a bad choice, and it was captured on candid camera,” said her lawyer, Stephen Rosen. “She’s very remorseful. She regrets it.” Toogood went into hiding for several days.
News sources quoted a doctor who saw the tape saying that the child could have suffered head, neck and brain injuries. The child was found to be in good health and has been sent to a foster family.
Since Toogood’s arrest, many news sources have focused on the fact that Toogood self-identified herself as an “Irish Traveler.”
Toogood told CNN that she was from North Texas and that Irish Travelers often feel discriminated against and “that’s why I was nervous” in the department store.
One news source described the Travelers as “a reclusive clan of extended families who travel the country doing home repairs,” and several others made the point that the home repairs are often conducted to scam people, and that the group consists of “grifters.”
Toogood’s sister Margaret Daley was also arrested after she refused to let police know where the girl or her mother was.
Most news sources made vague associations between Irishness, Catholicism and criminality, as well as citing claims from so-called experts about Traveling culture.
So-called experts have offered their opinions to news outlets and chat shows.
WNDU television in South Bend, Ind., quoted a local man, Don Wright, who made several outlandish claims, starting with the assertion that he knew the woman was an “Irish Traveler” because of the way she was beating the child.
Wright believed the beating happened for one of two reasons: “The little girl gave away the scam to an employee or the mom was so ticked off at not getting refunds she took it out on the little girl. As far as beating a kid like this, I’ve never heard of it.”
Wright wrote about Travelers who travel from Fort Worth, Texas, to Indiana in his 1996 book called ‘Scam!’ “A majority of the Travelers come to Elkhart a few times a year to pick up travel trailers they use for different scams,” he wrote. He added that for Traveler women, shoplifting was the most common endeavor:
“This is on the job training for kids. They learn to shoplift at their mothers elbows.”
There is no doubt that the groups that self-identify as “Irish Travelers” are associated with the wrong side of the law, but few reliable sources have established to what extent the groups are “Irish.”
In January 2000, five young Irish Travelers were killed in a Fort Worth auto accident. All of the five were under the age of 14, including the driver, and four of them were carrying fake driver’s licenses.
In South Carolina several years ago, an NBC dateline show highlighted the fact that girls as young as 12 were being forced into marriages with adult men within the Traveler community, prompting the state’s governor to amend the age at which people could marry. Then Attorney General Charlie Condon also formed the South Carolina Traveler Crime Task Force.
Madelyne Gorman has two outstanding warrants in her name in Texas. One warrant is for theft in White Settlement and the other is for driving without a license in Fort Worth, authorities said.
There are an estimated 12,000 to 20,000 Irish Travelers in the United States, mostly in South Carolina and Texas.
One message forum user authoritatively told other readers on Monday that “Irish Travelers use Sherlock, Gorman, and Donahue, while Scotch use Williamson, Galvin, Haliday, Keith, Parks, and Holden.
“Although little is known about the Traveler’s history, they all speak in a “cant,” a secret language among each other.”
Toogood told reporters: “Somebody’s been judge, jury and executioner of my child for a mistake I made.” She has apologized on TV for her actions and asserted that she does not abuse her children.
She posted $5,000 bail and was released from prison on Saturday evening.