EAST ORANGE, N.J. — Jamie Moore, the East Orange mother who started a national campaign to find her missing daughter — and then got arrested for alleged abuse after the teen was found — denied hitting the 14-year-old or throwing bleach at her face.
It was the first interview Moore has given, while under house arrest, since she was slapped with child endangerment charges on Nov. 12.
[Editor’s Note: PIX11 News is not using the child’s name, as she is a minor and may be the victim of a crime.]
“I have not talked to her. They don’t let me see her,” Moore said of child welfare officials, now in charge of her daughter’s care. “I begged them, can I have a visit with her. They said she doesn’t want to see me.”
A 10-page complaint from the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office alleged the mother chronically abused her daughter over a period of years, including allegations she stabbed the girl in the shoulder with a steak knife and hit her over the head with a frying pan.
“Absolutely ridiculous, none of that is true,” Moore said on Friday from her sister’s home.
Moore spent two weeks in jail after she was taken into custody on Nov. 12 at the East Orange Police Department. She had gone there with her sister and 3-year-old son, believing she would be reunited with her daughter, who had been missing for four weeks and was found by an alert citizen in New York City near a Harlem homeless shelter.
“I noticed that there were sheriffs and the FBI and they didn’t bring my daughter out,” Moore recalled.
“They asked me to go upstairs … From that point, they pretty much placed me under arrest.”
Moore’s son was also removed from her care and placed with New Jersey child welfare authorities.
The mother’s arrest capped two weeks of news coverage on her daughter’s disappearance that included marches through East Orange claiming the teen had been abducted.
“I went from being a parent everyone could relate to … to being the most hated parent in the world,” Moore said.
Moore’s daughter reportedly told New York City and East Orange cops she had cut off her long braids to avoid being recognized. Police said the girl didn’t want to return home after losing a family debit card on Oct. 14, fearing her mother would beat her.
Moore said she doesn’t believe the 14-year-old would make these charges. She pointed to a pending domestic violence case against her estranged husband, who is an East Orange Police Officer.
“Me and my daughter were supposed to testify on my birthday, Nov. 15,” Moore said. “She was not around to testify, and neither was I. So that means the trial was pushed back.”
The mother denied she deliberately kept the teen out of school during the pandemic, as it stretched into a second year, and denied she forced the girl to panhandle for money.
“I have a very good job,” Moore said, “I get paid every week. My daughter doesn’t have to panhandle for anything!”
Yet Moore acknowledged she had her own struggles in her teen years that led to drug use and family court involvement when her daughter was young.
“With me and my family, DYFS has always been weaponized,” Moore said, referring to the old name for New Jersey’s child welfare agency, which is still commonly used.
“When my mother came from Cuba, me and my brother were taken from her, and we didn’t meet our mother until we were grown,” Moore said.
“It really affected me,” Moore said. “So I promised myself that would never happen to my children.”
Moore said her own drug use started when she was exposed to narcotics within her adoptive family’s circle of relatives.
“There were family members that were actively using and, you know, I saw that,” Moore told PIX11 News.
“When I was 16, I was molested,” she said. “When we needed counseling for me being molested or a program when I was addicted to drugs as a teenager, they never came back to see that I was alright.”
Moore said she received two years of intensive counseling in family drug court initiatives, spending time in Mommy and Me programs, Sunrise Housing and Project Home, eventually getting full custody of her toddler daughter.
“She saved my life,” Moore said of the girl. “I have not been in trouble since I’ve had children.”
Moore’s son was born 11 years after her daughter.
“They are the joys of my life,” Moore said. “I would never do anything to hurt them or jeopardize them being taken away from me.”
But Moore hasn’t seen her son in more than a month nor her teen daughter in two months. She said the first week when her daughter was missing has not been accounted for.
“I need to know who she was with on those seven days,” Moore said. “Was she with an adult?”
Although Moore insists she didn’t abuse her daughter, Omar Muze, the family friend she was staying with in East Orange, told PIX11 News last month he had seen Moore “jumping on” the teen various times, since the girl was little.
Moore said she’s been a single mother supporting the children on her own.
“I love my children; I am the sole provider for my children, I pay my taxes,” Moore said. “Everyone turned on me. It’s like my name got smeared.”
Moore said she even received death threats, but she wouldn’t change anything she did to find her missing daughter.
“I have to have my children back,” Moore said. “I’m no good without them. They’re my reason for living. They’re my reason for being here. They give me purpose in life.”
Moore isn’t sure whether she will see her daughter anytime soon. She said there’s a chance she will receive supervised visits with her son.