Walking in Cobbs Creek Park on Friday night, Fitzroy Anderson watched as a herd of deer ran down a grassy hill. It would make a nice picture, he thought. So he followed them.
By the time he made it down the hill, the deer had darted into the
woods. But he lingered there, puzzled by what lay in front of him: an empty wheelchair and a Bible. And underneath it, something wrapped in a blanket.
"Wrapped up real nice and decent," he said.
Carefully, Anderson nudged the blanket with his foot.
Beneath it, someone moved.
That someone was Daequan Norman, who had been missing for five days. Norman, 21, has cerebral palsy, and is quadriplegic and nonverbal. He was unable to tell police how he had ended up in the woods.
Investigators soon figured it out.
Norman, who attends the School of the Future in West Philadelphia, had missed school since April 6, and a family member had called police.
Over the weekend, police filed an arrest warrant for Norman's mother, Nyia Parler, 41, of the 5800 block of Baltimore Avenue, charging her with attempted murder and related offenses.
Police say she abandoned Norman in the park and went to visit her boyfriend in Montgomery County, Md.
The case shocked the city and made headlines around the country. Those who knew Parler were equally stunned.
On her West Philadelphia street Monday, a neighbor remembered her as a caring mother who doted on her two sons.
"I don't know what brought her to the brink," Oscar Robinson said in disbelief. "It seemed like she was carrying her weight."
Before Norman was rescued and Parler was charged, her family was already worried.
Norman hadn't shown up at school since the day his mother left to visit her boyfriend. One family member texted Parler with the family's concerns.
"We're OK," she replied, according to police reports.
And by Parler's own account, the visit with her boyfriend was going well.
"I'm so happy," she wrote underneath a Facebook photo posted Tuesday, the day after Norman had been left to fend for himself.
"How the hell you happy?!?" a friend posted later that day. "Call me!"