TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — “American Idol” star Syesha Mercado her partner, Tyron Deneer held a virtual press conference Tuesday as the couple continued their their fight to regain custody of their two children.
Last Wednesday, the couple recorded a viral video showing their newborn daughter being removed from their custody during a traffic stop in Manatee County. Mercado and Deneer said their 18-month-old son was taken from their care in March after they brought him to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg to be treated for dehydration.
“I am a pregnant, breastfeeding, mama who went to the hospital with the intention to get my son, Amen’Ra, some ‘fluids’ while transitioning from extended breastfeeding to being bottle-fed,” Mercado recalled in a post on their GoFundMe page.
We Have the Right to Be Right, an advocacy group supporting the couple, claims their son was assessed by Dr. Sally Smith, a pediatrician who was the subject of “Torn Apart,” an investigation by the USA Today Network into claims the doctor was too quick to diagnose child abuse. Smith has denied the claims detailed in the report.
After the hospital visit, Amen’Ra was placed in the care of the Manatee Child Protective Services, according to NBC News. Mercado has said she was also accused of denying her child a B12 shot that doctors had recommended.
A sheriff’s office representative told 8 On Your Side they began investigating after getting a tip through the hospital’s child abuse line that the child was “severely malnourished.” They said the child’s parents refused to cooperate and a judge ordered the child be placed into the custody of child protective services. The Safe Children’s Coalition took over the case.
“Amen’Ra was forcefully and legally kidnapped from us by CPS, who claim we refused a B12 shot that was a matter of life and death, which is an absolute lie. We never refused a B12 shot, and at no point was he on the verge of death,” Mercado said. “My family and I are just one in countless other stories of legal kidnapping that go unheard and unseen.”
Last Wednesday, the couple’s newborn daughter was taken from them during a welfare check on the side of a road in Manatee County. The couple recorded the incident on video, which was posted on social media. The video has more than 3 million views as of Tuesday morning.
The video shows Mercado holding the infant and begging deputies not to take her.
“How could you guys do this? Do you not feel anything?” she asks. “My baby is days old and you’re taking my baby away from me. You’re taking my baby away from me. You have no heart. This is so wrong.”
The sheriff’s office said the Safe Children’s Coalition also handled the decision to place the newborn into DCF custody and added that they were executing a judge-ordered pick up when the newborn was seized. The agency’s statement did not mention the children by name and noted that most information from these types of custodial cases was confidential.
Mercado and Deneer said they were prepared to take legal action. The couple is being represented by lawyers, Derrick McBurrows, Esq. and Louis Baptiste, Esq., and has support from civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, Esq.
On Tuesday morning, the parents thanked supporters and tried to raise awareness about their case at a press conference with Crump and other advocates.
“I went somewhere to get assistance, my baby was supposed to come home with me.” Mercado said Tuesday. “We should have never been criminalized for getting assistance for something.”
“Our life revolves around health, balance and doing what we can to guide our children,” Deneer said. “Nothing that we do is detrimental to our babies.”
“If you are a parent, if you are a grandparent, aunt uncle, cousin, just know that we have agencies in place that have the ability to remove children without you breaking the law or abusing your niece, nephew, son,” Deneer said. “If this can happen to use, it can happen to you. We have no criminal background. We have no history with DCF. We have done nothing wrong.”