Caira Ferguson might have thought it was hilarious to wrap duct tape around her 2-year-old daughter, from mouth to ankles, and pose for photos as if her living room were Abu Ghraib prison.
But police in Delaware County weren't laughing yesterday when they charged Ferguson, 21, with unlawful restraint, false imprisonment and child endangerment after she confessed to taping the girl to her little purple chair last summer.
And Magisterial District Judge C. Walter McCray III was equally unamused when Ferguson appeared for her arraignment. McCray ordered her jailed without bail while she awaits her preliminary hearing - treating her more like an alleged murderer than a bad mom.
"That's a rotten thing to do to your child," he said after Ferguson's arraignment. "I've seen a lot of stuff, but just that picture . . . you can't do that."
Ferguson incriminated herself last week when she showed the photo of her duct-taped girl to Chester Township police, claiming that it was evidence that she was the victim of identity theft. The alleged abuse occurred at her previous home in Nether Providence, investigators later determined.
"She contacted us for an alleged identify theft and brought that picture," said Chester Township Police Chief Ken Coalson. "When we looked at the picture, we were thinking to ourselves, 'Well, what you're showing us here, we want to look into that.' "
The photo ended up on MediaTakeOut.com, a gossipy raunch-fest that claims to be "the most visited urban website in the world." The site added the caption: "Imagine what it's gonna feel like taking OFF the tape." It got 337,000 hits before it was removed.
"It's heart-wrenching, even if it was a joke, even if they were just clowning around," Coalson said. "Try taking the tape off. It does look like it was tightly wrapped. I'm sure she wasn't too happy."
Ferguson initially claimed that a 5-year-old and 7-year-old duct-taped her daughter, but she later confessed, said Sgt. Michael Irey, Nether Providence detective. She insisted that it wasn't for laughs, but a witness told police just the opposite, Irey said.
"I don't know why she would show police the photo, but she did," Irey said.
Delaware County Children and Youth Services was expected to place the child in the custody of a relative, Irey said. But not the girl's grandmother.
"Apparently," Irey said, "the grandmother was there at the time of the incident."