An Algonquin mother who abandoned her severely disabled 19-year-old daughter at a Tennessee bar may have been morally wrong, but she didn’t break the law, prosecutors say.
“There has been nothing presented to our office to show she has been physically harmed or suffered any immediate or irreparable harm,” Tennessee Assistant District Attorney Scarlett Ellis said of Lynn Cameron, the disabled teen. “While it morally is not right – it’s something that goes straight to the heart – it does not rise to the level of criminal codes here.”
Eva Cameron returned to Tennessee on Tuesday and signed a statement saying she no longer could care for Lynn, whom she wanted to become a ward of the state.
Lynn has multiple disabilities, including visual impairment and cerebral palsy.
Eva Cameron said she brought her daughter to Tennessee because it has the “No. 1 health care system in the United States of America” and she wanted the best care. She also said her church directed her there because it is a more Baptist area.
Caryville (Tenn.) Assistant Police Chief Stephanie Smith said police were called June 28 to The Big Orange Bar for a mentally disabled woman who had walked into the bar and didn’t belong there.
“When we found her, she had been at the bar for around 20 minutes and was fine physically,” Smith said.
But police were unable to communicate with her – she couldn’t tell police her name. Eva Cameron said her daughter’s state ID was lost, which was why she wasn’t identified.
Smith said the police department, in an attempt to identify the girl, was flooded with calls from various states. On July 8, authorities received an anonymous tip that the girl was Lynn Cameron. The Algonquin Police Department became involved and Lynn was positively identified.
“This has been disturbingly weird,” Smith said. “Who just drops off their handicapped child and leaves?”
Lynn Cameron has been in the custody of Tennessee authorities and is now in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Human Services, local NBC television affiliate WVLT reported. She will be housed at a center for children and adults with developmental disabilities.
Eva Cameron said the entire incident was “just a big hoopla out of nothing.”
She said she and her daughter had been at a Waffle House when Lynn refused to use the bathroom there, so she went to what she thought was a restaurant but it turned out to be a bar. Eva Cameron said she was waiting in the parking lot and police soon arrived, so she left because authorities had stepped in.
“My daughter Lynn is a ward of the state of Tennessee,” Cameron said. “They thought she was a child. She is an adult and I do not have any guardianship.”
Cameron said she has another disabled child and that caring for both was too much to handle.
“The way the laws are set up, they don’t have enough for families with multiple disabled children,” she said. “You can only stretch yourself like a gummy bear so far until you rip.”
The laws need to change so that there is more help offered by the state, Cameron said. “They just say, ‘You don’t qualify.’ ”
Court records show that Eva Cameron does not have any criminal background in McHenry County aside from traffic tickets, but in June 2011 she filed seven orders of protection against School District 300 employees, all of which were denied by a judge.
Her petitions included different allegations, such as that one staffer sent her “entire family on a downhill wagon” and said another staff member called her a “delusional schizophrenic.”
Algonquin Police Chief Russell Laine said his department was contacted by someone who saw Lynn Cameron’s picture on Facebook and was able to identify her.
Laine said police are familiar with the Cameron family.
“We’ve had contact with them,” he said. “We’ve been to the residence.”
He declined to comment on the circumstances.
“This is something that is still unfolding,” Laine said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a resolution to this really quickly and the concern is just for the safety and well-being of Lynn.”
An Illinois Department of Children and Family Services spokesman said he could not comment because he legally cannot disclose the child welfare history of an adult. He also could not comment on whether DCFS was called to the Cameron home for any other children because there have been no criminal charges.
Caryville, Tenn., with a population of about 2,300, is about an hour northwest of Knoxville.
• Northwest Herald writer Lawerence Synett contributed to this report.