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Mom: 'No excuse' for striking child

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

Madelyne Gorman Toogood said she darkened her hair color before she surrendered so she wouldn't be recognized from the infamous video.
Madelyne Gorman Toogood said she darkened her hair color before she surrendered so she wouldn't be recognized from the infamous video.

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SOUTH BEND, Indiana (CNN) -- Her flash of anger, caught on video, sparked a nationwide search for the mother who beat her child in an Indiana department store parking lot.

In an interview Sunday, Madelyne Gorman Toogood spoke with CNN's Gary Tuchman about the events that prompted her to strike her daughter and what has happened since she surrendered to police.

TUCHMAN: When you sit next to Madelyne Toogood for the first time, the first thing you notice is how dark her hair is compared to how light her hair was in the infamous videotape. Well, she readily admits she changed her hair color before she turned herself in, so people would not be able to recognize her.

We sat down with her for an exclusive interview. It was the first time she has done an interview with reporters. She's done a couple of news conferences, and she was very blunt. You'll have to decide at this point if you think she's being honest while she's talking to us. But what's indisputable is she readily admits her guilt.

Madelyne, the first question I want to ask you is: When did you first see this video? Where were you? And how did it come about that you saw it?

TOOGOOD: Somebody told my sister that it was going to be on CNN, and I never seen it until a couple -- probably the next day when -- after it first started.

TUCHMAN: How did you feel when you saw this video and saw that it was you striking your child?

TOOGOOD: I knew I was wrong when I did it. I apologized. But I didn't know how bad -- I had no idea how. ...

TUCHMAN: How did you know how bad it was? When you looked at it did you remember doing what you did?

TOOGOOD: No. I don't. ... I don't remember it was that bad.

TUCHMAN: When we talk about how bad it was, what did you do? And you have been very candid about this. What did you do to your daughter? We see that you're throwing your fists, and we see that you're pulling hair. What was going on?

TOOGOOD: Can I answer all of that? I pulled her hair, and I didn't throw a fist at her -- I slapped her with an open hand. ... I was like that -- shaking her by the head -- the hair.

TUCHMAN: Why were you doing this?

TOOGOOD: There was no excuse. There would be no excuse in the world why I did it.

TUCHMAN: But you were at a Kohl's department store not far from here. What happened in that store that led you to be so angry?

TOOGOOD: I was nervous in the store. Martha [the child] was underneath things. ... She's 4 years old, and there's nothing she did that she hasn't did a million times. And I've never lashed out like that. ... I can't make any excuses.

There was nothing that would provoke me to do something like that. ... I don't know why I did it. I -- there would be no reason to explain why I did it because [there] is no explanation for it.

TUCHMAN: Were you hit as a child?

TOOGOOD: ... I was never hit.

TUCHMAN: Have you hit your children before?

TOOGOOD: I've spanked them before. No -- I've never battered them before or abused them before.

TUCHMAN: You call it battering and abusing yourself.

TOOGOOD: It looks like it -- yeah.

TUCHMAN: But the fact that you're saying that -- this is the first time you've battered or abused a child, and it was caught on videotape. Do you consider yourself unlucky that you were caught?

TOOGOOD: Of course I do. ... But maybe it's a blessing in disguise. Maybe -- it's ruined my life. Maybe it will save some other child, some other mothers from doing it to theirs.

I can't walk outside. I'm a monster to everybody. And so hopefully somebody will be educated enough to know: Don't raise your hand to your child. Don't do it -- it's not worth it.

TUCHMAN: [F]or eight days, you didn't come forward. And where were you after this happened? Why didn't you ...

TOOGOOD: Well, I wasn't issued a warrant until Friday. I knew they were looking for me. But when I knew they had issued a warrant I came back.

TUCHMAN: Where did you go?

TOOGOOD: I flew to Maryland and ... went to a trauma doctor with my daughter. ... I wanted an honest opinion.

TUCHMAN: A trauma doctor where?

TOOGOOD: In Baytown, New Jersey.

TUCHMAN: I think you were saying Bay Head, New Jersey.

TOOGOOD: Bay Head, New Jersey.

TUCHMAN: On the Jersey shore?

TOOGOOD: Yeah -- on the Jersey shore.

TUCHMAN: So you went to a doctor because you had seen the video and heard all of the coverage and were concerned?

TOOGOOD: And they were saying that she was ... abused, and they were saying that she was battered. And there was not a mark on my child, and there never was. There never was nothing on her.

TUCHMAN: You were hitting -- you seemed to be hitting her pretty hard. Did she have marks initially? Honestly?

TOOGOOD: Never. My child never had nothing on her -- never -- never. [H]er hair was pulled. The only place she was hit was her bottom and her -- in the middle of her back.

TUCHMAN: Are you embarrassed and ashamed?

TOOGOOD: Of course, I am. I'm mortified. I'm mortified. I'm mortified what I did to my family, what I did to my husband, what I did to my -- I'm mortified.

TUCHMAN: And in the meantime the state [of Indiana] has taken Martha away from you for the time being -- not only away from you but away from anyone in your family. She's living with a foster family right now.

How do you feel about that decision?

TOOGOOD: I think they should have gave her to somebody in my family. I think if it was anybody else's child they would have [given] her to a member of their family.

TUCHMAN: Now you were alluding to the fact that you are an Irish Traveler. ... Can you explain, first of all: What is an Irish Traveler? This is an important point to tell our viewers.

TOOGOOD: I said before it's hard to explain -- it's hard to explain what you are. To me, an Irish Traveler is me ... but that's just a small part of me.

TUCHMAN: One thing we should tell our viewers is authorities were saying initially you were a transient ...


TUCHMAN: ... and a nomad. And now we're being a little more specific. An Irish Traveler -- you are a member of about 200 to 300 people who travel around the country looking for different types of work, right?

TOOGOOD: We are -- no -- they have -- they all -- they don't look for types of work. They all do the -- that's what -- my husband does paving work. That's what he does.

TUCHMAN: Paving -- OK. ... But getting different jobs in different places?

TOOGOOD: Right. He owns his equipment. He is licensed in this state [Indiana]. He's Better Business Bureau. He does all of that.

TUCHMAN: But you were saying though that there is prejudice against ...


TUCHMAN: ... people like yourselves.

TOOGOOD: It's like a bum sitting in front of a nice store: "We need you to move down. We don't want you here. Move."

TUCHMAN: So are you saying that's why you were nervous in the Kohl's department store?

TOOGOOD: That's why I was -- yeah -- that's why I was nervous there. ... I thought they were going to take her. They were going to say, "You have no permanent address." That's why I thought they were going to take her.

TUCHMAN: You were nervous in the store because you are an Irish Traveler, and you think they were looking at you funny? Is that what you are saying?


TUCHMAN: Not that anything went wrong in the store? Not that you took anything or ...

TOOGOOD: No -- I never took nothing. I come in with a bag and I double-knotted it before I went in. As soon as I walked through the door, I double-knotted that bag twice.

TUCHMAN: But you think the camera outside was following you?


TUCHMAN: Why was the camera following you, do you think?

TOOGOOD: Because -- I -- because they opened my bag in the middle of the store. I have in my shopping cart with my little girl. And somebody come over and opened up my bag -- unknotted it and opened it and looked through it. And I come over and said, "That's mine. What are you doing?"

TUCHMAN: So they were suspicious of you?

TOOGOOD: My purse was in it. Yeah -- it wasn't unattended. It would be like a shopping cart -- a lady with a shopping cart that left -- yeah.

TUCHMAN: I was talking to you earlier. In the state of Texas six months ago, you were arrested and charged with shoplifting in another Kohl's.

TOOGOOD: Yeah -- ironic.

TUCHMAN: What was that all about?

TOOGOOD: Just ironic.

TUCHMAN: You've got to stay away from the Kohl's, right?

TOOGOOD: Yeah -- just ironic.

TUCHMAN: The fact is, Madelyne, that millions of people saw this video, and they were just appalled at what they saw.

TOOGOOD: They should have been.

TUCHMAN: It was scary. It was violent.

TOOGOOD: It was.

TUCHMAN: And what do you say to all of the people who saw that and just feel this feeling toward you they can't express?

TOOGOOD: Well, it was ... 25 seconds of my life. And I apologize for it over and over again.

TUCHMAN: What did you say to Martha though?

TOOGOOD: As soon as I pulled away ... she told me that her pigtail was messed up. And I said, "Martha, I'm sorry -- I shouldn't have pulled your pigtail. I'm sorry, Martha -- I shouldn't have pulled your pigtail. I shouldn't have did that."

And I fixed her pigtails. I apologized. But did I think ... it was as bad as it was? No -- I didn't think I ...

TUCHMAN: What did she say to you after you apologized?

TOOGOOD: She was less than friendly to me. ...

TUCHMAN: You face the possibility of up to three years in prison. Are you concerned that you might not get your child back?

TOOGOOD: Yeah, I'm concerned. I just want her to go to somebody she knows. That's my biggest concern right now. She's with strangers. That would be fine if she just got to go with somebody she knows.

TUCHMAN: What did you tell her when she left you [Saturday], when you surrendered?

TOOGOOD: I didn't get to see her. My husband -- my husband [saw] her.

TUCHMAN: What was the last thing you said to her?

TOOGOOD: I said, "I'll be back in a minute." I gave her a kiss, and I said, "I'll be back in a minute." ... I didn't think they were going to take her. I thought they were going to leave her with my husband.

TUCHMAN: Do you understand the viewpoint though of the state here? They just want to really play it cautious. This was a violent. ...


TUCHMAN: ... attack on your child. They're not sure what to do. They want to make sure she's safe.

TOOGOOD: I just wish they would have kept me and let her go home with my husband if they were afraid of me.

TUCHMAN: But you hang out with your husband.

TOOGOOD: No, we already said we would separate. ...[S]he could have went with any member of my family, and I wouldn't have went near her. If they told me she was going to go to foster care if I went near her, I wouldn't have went near my little girl.

TUCHMAN: Madelyne, do you think you're a victim here?


TUCHMAN: It seems like you're saying that the state is doing something wrong.

TOOGOOD: They're probably just doing their job. I just wish they would have gave Martha to a family member.

TUCHMAN: How are you coping right now? You know you've done something terribly wrong. You're basically admitting you're guilty of these charges, which are serious charges. How are you coping with this right now?

TOOGOOD: I can't even think of me right now. I guess I'm fine -- I'm coping -- I'm here.

TUCHMAN: Tell us about Martha. What kind of little girl is she?

TOOGOOD: Martha is, I would say, a typical 4-year-old -- but she's not. Martha runs everything. Martha is extremely loud. When she talks, she's loud.

When you first meet her, she's real shy. When you're around her a little bit, she's loud and she over-talks everybody. And she's extremely smart for a 4-year-old. She runs the boys like she's older than they are. ... She likes to tell everybody what to do and how to do it.

TUCHMAN: Madelyne, the fact that you didn't say goodbye to her before she left, you don't know when you're going to see her again -- that's what I'm really getting at. How do you cope with that?

TOOGOOD: The fact that my child might wake up in the middle of the night with a bad dream and not be able to go to somebody's bed that she knows -- that's worse to me than anything else. ... She's not going to feel comfortable to go to somebody and say, "I'm scared -- I want to get in bed," or "I'm thirsty -- I want a drink."

TUCHMAN: How scared are you of going to jail?

TOOGOOD: Terrified. Terrified -- yeah -- terrified -- terrified of going to jail.

TUCHMAN: What would you say to Martha if you could talk to her right now?

TOOGOOD: I just -- I just miss her and she's going to be home. I'm doing everything I can to get her. And she's going to be back with somebody that she knows. And I'm sure the people are very nice that she's with, but they're still strangers to Martha.

TUCHMAN: Do you wish you turned yourself in sooner because that could work against you -- the fact that your family helped protect you? The state says that your family wasn't real cooperative.

TOOGOOD: I turned myself in as soon as the warrant come for me.

TUCHMAN: But you knew the video was out before that and you were on the video?

TOOGOOD: Of course, I did -- yeah. I wanted an unbiased opinion, and I wanted the best circumstances to bring my child and myself in. I wanted to make sure when it was safe for us to come in.

TUCHMAN: And the final question for you, Madelyne: Your advice to other parents?

TOOGOOD: Well, the people that would even think about doing it? Don't raise your hand to a child -- it ain't worth it. ... It ain't worth what it does to the family. ... I've ruined my husband's life. I've ruined innocent people's lives. I've ruined my mother and father's [lives], [my husband's] mother and father.

TUCHMAN: And your two sons, who are 5 and 6, are with your husband right now?

TOOGOOD: They're with a relative right now.

TUCHMAN: And are you allowed to see them?

TOOGOOD: Yeah. They ... guaranteed me that they're not going to touch my sons. They don't want them. They [are] ... fine, and they're not going to try for them.

TUCHMAN: I haven't talked to you about this before, but if you could relive September 13 over again, I bet you would do it in two seconds.

TOOGOOD: Oh, my God. If I could take it back -- oh, my God -- yeah. It would be my only wish of wishes right now.

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