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Mother says she's 'mortified' by videotaped beating

Madelyne Gorman Toogood speaks to reporters Saturday
Madelyne Gorman Toogood speaks to reporters Saturday

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Madelyne Gorman Toogood faces a child battery charge in Mishawaka, Indiana, after being caught on videotape apparently beating her 4-year-old daughter. (September 22)
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MISHAWAKA, Indiana (CNN) -- The woman who was caught on videotape repeatedly striking her 4-year-old daughter in the rear of her SUV called the whole incident "a blessing in disguise."

"Maybe it's ruined my life. Maybe it will save some other child, some other mother," Madelyne Gorman Toogood, 25, said in an exclusive interview with CNN's Gary Tuchman.

Toogood, who is out on bail on a felony battery charge, admitted earlier Sunday that she hit her child and said she had been having a "bad day." She said her daughter Martha had been acting up in the Kohl's department store in whose parking lot she was later videotaped, but "there would be no excuse in the world why I did it."

"I am mortified. I am mortified by what I did to my family, what I did to my husband," she said.

Toogood said she didn't realize how bad the beating was until she saw the store surveillance tape on television. She remembered pulling her daughter's pigtails, slapping her with an open hand, and knocking her on her forehead, but denied punching the girl.

Child Protective Services placed Martha with a foster family in St. Joseph County until it could be determined if a member of her own extended family could take care of her. As a condition of bail, Toogood will be allowed only supervised visits with Martha. She also will not be able to visit her two sons, ages 5 and 6, without supervision. The two boys will live with their father.

"They've guaranteed me they won't touch my boys," Toogood said of authorities.

Toogood said her husband John is devastated.

"I've apologized to my husband. I'm sorry to him for what I did. But, you know, we'll work it out," she said.

Toogood, her sister and three children were videotaped while they shopped together September 13 in Mishawaka.

After several fruitless days of searching, authorities gave the videotape to the news media, including CNN, which played it numerous times.

Toogood said seeing it on TV was how she first became aware of the existence of the tape. She surrendered to police Saturday.

"I know they were looking for me," Toogood said. "When I knew they had issued a warrant, I came back."

Last week, authorities arrested Toogood's sister, Margaret Daley, and charged her with failing to report child abuse and assisting a criminal. Daley witnessed the beating, investigators said.

Once her sister was arrested, Toogood said, she took the child from Indiana to Maryland and then to Bayhead, New Jersey, where she said she arranged for a trauma specialist to examine the girl. The doctor pronounced her in good health, the mother said.

The tape shows a woman putting the girl into a car seat in the rear of an SUV, then apparently beating her child for about 25 seconds.

Toogood said she apologized to her daughter as they drove from the parking lot. She said she had spanked her children before but "never battered or abused them before." She described her own parents as lenient and said she was not abused as a child.

Though her husband is supporting her, the couple would be willing to separate if that means he can get custody of Martha, Toogood said.

"My hope is just to have Martha home, go to parenting classes, learn the right way to deal with it. I just want my life," she said.

Asked if she faulted authorities for placing the child with a foster family, Toogood said, "No, they're probably just doing their job. I just wish they would've gave her to a family member."

Toogood said she comes from a community called Irish Travelers, which is known for the itinerant lifestyles of its members.

She said her husband is licensed to do paving work, and the family moves around to take jobs around the country.

She indicated that Irish Travelers often feel discriminated against, and "that's why I was nervous" in the department store.

Steven Rosen, Toogood's attorney, disputed his client's claim that her status as an Irish Traveler has worked against her. "She's been treated fairly," he told reporters.

Irish Travelers' lifestyles keep many of them from attending school, he said. "You don't go to high school, you don't go to college, you can't stand in front of people and speak out with the correct pronunciation of the English language."

But, he said, the group's members are supportive of one another -- 45 of Toogood's relatives have driven and flown to Indiana from around the country to offer their help. "Some of them can't even hug her because they're just breaking down."

Prosecutor Maggie Jones told CNN Sunday that she was not moved by the mother's entreaties that the girl be allowed to stay with other family members.

"My sympathies do not go to Madelyne at all," Jones said. "These are the same family members who, after they witnessed the beating on videotape, refused to bring the child forward for medical assessment or medical treatment."

Jones said the doctor's clean bill of health does not mean the girl was not abused. Bruises could have healed in the eight days the girl was gone, she said.

Toogood said she had a message for other parents: "Don't raise your hand to a child. It ain't worth it."

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