Bustleton man bought baby for $15,000, police say

John Gavaghan and moth­er-of-three Brid­get Wis­mer have been ac­cused in the trans­ac­tion, which al­legedly took place at a Delaware racetrack.

By most ac­counts, John Gavaghan should’ve known his way around the Delaware Park Racetrack and Casino.

He should’ve known that big-time bet­ting houses gen­er­ally have the best video sur­veil­lance equip­ment that money can buy.

But it was the Bustleton res­id­ent’s ap­par­ent dis­reg­ard of the eyes in the sky that poin­ted au­thor­it­ies to the re­puted horse­man’s latest high-risk, high-re­ward gamble.

New Castle County, Del., po­lice say they have video evid­ence of Gavaghan pay­ing cash for a Ne­wark-area wo­man’s new­born baby and of him pre­par­ing pa­per­work to doc­u­ment the black-mar­ket deal.

Gavaghan, 54, of the 9100 block of Old New­town Road, and his al­leged ac­com­plice, Brid­get M. Wis­mer, 33, of Brook­side Park, Del., were ar­res­ted Sept. 30 and charged with deal­ing in chil­dren and con­spir­acy. Since then, the case has been mak­ing na­tion­al head­lines.

Both de­fend­ants have been re­leased on bail. On Fri­day, Wis­mer waived a pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing and was ordered to wear an elec­tron­ic-mon­it­or­ing device. Tri­al dates have not been set.

The agreed-upon sale price for the month-old boy was $15,000, au­thor­it­ies claim. New Castle County po­lice, with as­sist­ance from de­tect­ives with Phil­adelphia’s spe­cial-vic­tims unit, re­covered the child from Gavaghan’s apart­ment.

The boy is in foster care.

It re­mains un­clear how Wis­mer and Gavaghan even knew each oth­er to al­legedly en­gage them­selves in the sor­did trans­ac­tion.

Wis­mer is a single moth­er of three who lives with her moth­er. Doc­u­ments in­tro­duced in court on Oct. 5 by the Delaware At­tor­ney Gen­er­al’s Of­fice in­dic­ated that Wis­mer may have been ad­dicted to opi­ates when the baby was born on Aug. 31 at Chris­ti­ana Hos­pit­al with a sim­il­ar ad­dic­tion, ac­cord­ing to the News-Journ­al of Wilm­ing­ton.

Sep­ar­ate court fil­ings have stated that Wis­mer wanted to sell the baby so she could take her older two chil­dren on a trip to Dis­ney World, and that she pos­ted her in­ten­tion to sell the boy on Face­book be­fore he was born.

In in­ter­views with the As­so­ci­ated Press, Wis­mer re­portedly denied that she in­ten­ded to sell the boy and de­scribed Gavaghan as a friend who offered to help her fin­an­cially and in tak­ing care of the baby.

For his part, Gavaghan is an ex-con­vict whom Delaware State Po­lice have de­scribed as a “horse own­er” and the Delaware At­tor­ney Gen­er­al’s Of­fice has said is “al­legedly a known seller of pre­scrip­tion med­ic­a­tions and book­maker at Delaware Park,” the News-Journ­al re­por­ted.

A neigh­bor who char­ac­ter­ized him­self as a long­time con­fid­ant of Gavaghan’s painted a dif­fer­ent pic­ture of the al­leged baby-buy­er on Oct. 5. The North­east Times was un­able to reach Gavaghan dir­ectly for com­ment.

The neigh­bor spoke on con­di­tion of an­onym­ity and said that Gavaghan is well-liked in the apart­ment com­plex and will­ing to lend a hand to oth­er res­id­ents in need.

Fur­ther, the neigh­bor said, Gavaghan had ex­pressed to him a de­sire to raise a child. Gavaghan spoke of buy­ing a house and hir­ing a nanny to help raise the youth. The neigh­bor re­fused to dis­close Gavaghan’s cur­rent or pri­or fam­ily status or his pro­fes­sion, oth­er than to say that he “spent a lot of time at horse tracks.”

The neigh­bor dis­missed the idea that Gavaghan’s crim­in­al past could com­prom­ise his abil­ity to raise a child.

In 1995, he was con­victed in a fed­er­al money-laun­der­ing case and sen­tenced to 33 months in pris­on. In 2002, he was con­victed in Phil­adelphia’s Com­mon Pleas Court of mul­tiple counts of theft and writ­ing bad checks and was sen­tenced to one year of pro­ba­tion. A more-ser­i­ous for­gery charge was with­drawn.

Gavaghan also was ar­res­ted in 1993 in Phil­adelphia for for­gery, theft and writ­ing bad checks, but pro­sec­utors later with­drew all charges. In 2005, he was charged loc­ally with be­ing a fu­git­ive from justice, but pro­sec­utors later with­drew the case.

His cur­rent pickle stems from a Sept. 4 com­plaint to New Castle County po­lice by Wis­mer’s grand­moth­er, who re­por­ted that Wis­mer was at­tempt­ing to sell her new­born child “to an un­known ho­mo­sexu­al couple for $15,000,” ac­cord­ing to an af­fi­davit of prob­able cause.

The grand­moth­er fur­ther re­por­ted that “Brid­get was try­ing to sell her child be­cause she did not want the child and wanted to go to Dis­ney World,” the af­fi­davit states.

Po­lice soon learned that the Delaware Di­vi­sion of Fam­ily Ser­vices had already launched an in­vest­ig­a­tion of Wis­mer on the day of the child’s birth.

Gavaghan was lis­ted as the bio­lo­gic­al fath­er on the boy’s birth cer­ti­fic­ate. He, Wis­mer and Wis­mer’s moth­er all denied that the child was be­ing sold. They told po­lice that Wis­mer’s grand­moth­er “was con­fused” about the situ­ation.

Gavaghan, who later ad­mit­ted to po­lice that he nev­er had sexu­al re­la­tions with Wis­mer, took pos­ses­sion of the child.

Ac­cord­ing to his neigh­bor, Gavaghan took the boy to see a doc­tor sev­er­al times and the child ap­peared to be gain­ing weight.

On Sept. 29, however, a de­tect­ive from the Delaware State Po­lice Di­vi­sion of Gam­ing En­force­ment con­tac­ted New Castle County po­lice to re­port sus­pi­cious activ­ity in­volving Wis­mer and Gavaghan.

On Sept. 3, a video sur­veil­lance cam­era at Delaware Park had filmed Gavaghan “com­plet­ing pa­per­work per­tain­ing to” the new­born child, ac­cord­ing to the af­fi­davit. A fe­male, later iden­ti­fied as Wis­mer, was filmed al­legedly hand­ing the pa­per­work to Gavaghan and col­lect­ing cash and a money or­der from him.

The video cam­era even picked up some of the con­tent of the pa­per­work, au­thor­it­ies claim. The words in­cluded “per­tain to the sale of a baby,” spe­cific­ally “for a child to be born on 09/08/11,” the af­fi­davit states.

The court doc­u­ment does not ex­plain the dis­crep­ancy between the ac­tu­al birth date and the birth date cited in Gavaghan’s al­leged pa­per­work. Oth­er pa­pers filmed by the se­cur­ity cam­era were dated pri­or to Aug. 31 and ref­er­ence a series of pay­ments and a bal­ance due. ••

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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