HAGERSTOWN -- Legal events affecting the future of a 3 1/2 -year-old boy apparently abandoned by his Western Maryland parents at a Southern California shopping mall nearly a month ago played out in courts on both coasts yesterday.
Here, the boy's father, Wolfgang Nester Sr., 23, agreed in court to return to California with authorities from that state for trial on felony charges of child abandonment and child endangerment. If convicted, he could face up to six years in prison. He is being held without bail in the Washington County Detention Center while awaiting California authorities who will take him west, probably within a week.
In California, a hearing began to determine who gets custody of the boy, Wolfgang Von Nester Jr., who has been living in a foster home since he was found wandering at a Montgomery Ward store June 2.
The boy's maternal and paternal grandparents are seeking custody.
Meanwhile, Mr. Nester's wife, Lisa, 24, who faces the same charges as her husband in California, awaited a hearing tomorrow in Washington County Circuit Court on a bench warrant stemming from nonpayment of child support related to her other four children, all of whom are in her mother's custody. Mrs. Nester is being held without bail at the Detention Center.
Washington County State's Attorney Ken Long declined to comment yesterday on whether he would drop or suspend the charges against Mrs. Nester in light of the California warrants. Authorities said her extradition hearing could be held as early as tomorrow afternoon, depending on the outcome of the other charges.
Details of the custody hearing in a San Bernardino County juvenile court that began yesterday afternoon were not immediately known. A spokesman, citing privacy laws, would neither confirm nor deny that such a proceeding even occurred.
But a friend of the family, who declined to give her name, said she was not expecting a decision and that the "process is quite slow."
One of the boy's relatives also confirmed that such a hearing had begun. The friend said the judge had agreed to allow the boy, known as Wolfie, to go on an extended visit to relatives in Maryland. No date has been set, and the boy will remain in foster care for the time being.
The boy's paternal grandparents, Philip and Susan Nester, who live in Smithsburg, are in California this week visiting Wolfie.
The young parents, who hitchhiked east after the boy was abandoned were stopped by authorities along the Appalachian Trail near the Maryland-Pennsylvania line Monday afternoon. Police arrested Mrs. Nester immediately on the bench warrant. Mr. Nester was released but was arrested the next day after the California warrant was issued.
At his extradition hearing yesterday, Mr. Nester, wearing the same green shorts and purple-and-black sweat shirt he had worn the day before, told Judge Edgar Brown that he "would like to go along with extradition." Later, he said he wanted to "get back to California to face charges and get it over with."
In interviews the day before, a tearful Mr. Nester said he and his wife decided to leave Wolfie in the store after they found themselves without money, food, clothing or a car. Their car, which contained stolen Maryland plates, was confiscated by police shortly after the family arrived in California.