Relatives Win Visits With Child Whose Dad Allegedly Tried To Sell Her
BRIDGETON, N.J. (AP) _ A 4-year-old girl whose father allegedly tried to sell her for $100,000 will be reunited briefly with her maternal grandparents and aunt under a ruling Tuesday giving them limited visitation rights during a custody fight for the child.
″We were hoping it would be longer but we’re really glad to see her,″ said Rachel Rauser’s aunt, Deborah Stern of Sunrise, Fla., following a closed hearing before Superior Court Judge George H. Stanger Jr.
Mrs. Stern and her husband, Gary; her parents, John and Ruby Rauser of Pittsgrove Township; and the girl’s stepmother, Cindy Sullivan-Waltman of Salem; are all trying to obtain permanent custody.
Rachel’s father, Joseph Waltman, 22, of Alloway Township, is free on bail pending arraignment next month on charges he tried to sell the girl to the Sterns in the Giants Stadium parking lot in March.
Ms. Sullivan-Waltman, Waltman’s estranged wife, was awarded temporary custody of Rachel in April by Bergen County Superior Court Naomi Eichen.
The girl’s mother, Michal Rauser, who never married Waltman, died in a 1984 car accident. Rachel will begin receiving payments from a $3 million insurance settlement from that accident when she turns 18.
Mrs. Stern, who is Michal Rauser’s sister, her parents and Ms. Sullivan- Waltm an appeared at the hearing Tuesday with their attorneys.
Stanger allowed the Sterns and the Rausers to see Rachel in separate supervised visits before the next pretrial hearing May 29, Mrs. Stern said.
She declined to say when and where the visits would take place, or how long they would last, but said her husband and their children, Joshua and Courtney, would try to fly up from Florida to see Rachel. She said she thought the visit would take place before Sunday.
The Sterns have not seen their niece since they handed her over to Ms. Sullivan-Waltman under court order last month. But Mrs. Stern said they talked to Rachel on the telephone from their Florida home a few days ago.
″Joshua told her he had jellybeans for her and she laughed and said, ’You better save them for me,‴ she said.
The Rausers have not seen their granddaughter for 18 months.
According to Mrs. Stern, the judge said he wanted to see how Rachel interacted with her family and her parents.
Both Ms. Sullivan-Waltman and her attorney, George G. Rosenberger Jr., left the Cumberland County courthouse refusing comment.
A news release from Stanger’s office said a tentative trial date for permanent custody and adoption was set for July 1.
The Sterns pleaded innocent last month to charges of interference with custody of a child and criminal contempt for refusing to release Rachel to Ms. Sullivan-Waltman.
Mrs. Stern said Tuesday she and her husband had applied to a pretrial intervention program that allows New Jersey defendants charged with minimal crimes to forgo trial in exchange for probation-like supervision.