Authorities located a woman and her 2-year-old son unharmed Thursday - seven hours after the woman allegedly abducted the boy from the Hamilton Mall in Mays Landing, triggering an Amber Alert and leading officials on a frantic search.
Police say Cassidy Michaela Purdy, 24, of Mississippi and who once lived in Atlantic City, took her son, Mason, at about 1 p.m.
Hamilton Township police said Purdy - who does not have custody of the boy - was meeting Mason's biological father, Ronald Ross, 29, of Egg Harbor Township, at Ruby Tuesday.
Authorities say when Ross stepped outside to smoke a cigarette, Purdy ran from the west entrance of the mall on foot with the boy.
Police searched for Purdy and her son across Atlantic County, eventually finding them before 8 p.m. when they arrived at the ferry port in Lewes, Del.
They said once they discovered Purdy was on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, they alerted Delaware authorities.
Purdy was charged with interfering with child custody and is being held in a Delaware correctional facility pending extradition to New Jersey, police said.
Mason was returned to Ross.
The Hamilton Township Police Department conducted the investigation with the assistance of other local departments. State Police issued the Amber Alert at about 5:35 p.m., notifying agencies across the state of the situation.
Purdy's Facebook page describes a bitter custody battle with Mason's biological father.
"So...i decided to let Mason see his dad before court....whattya know?? he takes him and leaves the state..this is my life," she wrote Dec. 12.
She later commented, "Yeah he's gonna get what he deserves..let the judge handle him...whats really sad is that this all because i dont want to be with him."
New Jersey's Amber Alert criteria were broadened to include family situations in 2010, after Atlantic County native Shamsid-Din Abdur-Raheem was accused of kidnapping his 3-month-old daughter and tossing her over the side of the Driscoll Bridge in northern New Jersey.
Staff writers Jennifer Bogdan, Joel Landau and Caitlin Dineen contributed to this report.