05/15/2009 AT 6:30 PM ET
Brooke Shields’s mother, who suffers from dementia, was checked out of a New Jersey nursing home Thursday by a journalist seeking a “tabloid story,” the outraged actress tells PEOPLE.
Teri Shields, 75, was later found unharmed at a restaurant next door to an assisted living center in Old Tappan, N.J., talking to a freelance reporter, according to police, who say no arrests have been made but that the case remains under investigation.
“I intend to take every lawful action against all who were involved or who authorized this despicable act,” Brooke Shields says in a statement to PEOPLE.
A Call from Police
The actress claims her mother was targeted by the National Enquirer.
“My mother Teri Shields has been diagnosed with dementia. For her safety, she has temporarily been in a senior living facility, a very difficult decision for me,” she says. “Late Thursday afternoon, I was alerted by Old Tappan Police that my mother had been signed out of the facility by two reporters of the National Enquirer who falsely claimed they were friends of hers.”
She adds: “They then drove my 75-year-old mother around looking for a tabloid story. As anyone knows who has a parent who suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s, it is one of the most difficult experiences you can go through as a son or daughter. The idea that the National Enquirer took advantage of her state is reprehensible and disgusting.”
In a statement, the National Enquirer responds: “A freelance reporter who has known Teri Shields for more than 10 years visited her Thursday at the assisted living facility where Brooke says she moved her. Teri asked the reporter to take her out to lunch and to run some errands. The freelance reporter then got permission from the facility to do so.”
According to Old Tappan Police Department Capt. Thomas Shine, officers were called to the assisted living facility at 3 p.m. Thursday to look for Teri Shields. A supervisor at the facility said the elder Shields had been checked out.
“It was more along the lines that she had been allowed to leave, based upon their protocol or policy,” Shine tells PEOPLE. “It had been an extended period of time” since she left.
“Our officer located her with some form of a journalist, I think a freelance journalist, in an eatery right next door,” Shine continues. “She wasn’t harmed in any way shape or form. She was fine. The officers discussed the circumstances with her. And she literally walked with one of my officers next door to the assisted living center.”
Shine did not identify the journalist or a media outlet.
The journalist was interviewed by police, as was a photographer who was working with the reporter but wasn’t on the scene at the time officer arrived.
No charges have been filed, and the Shields family had not yet sought a criminal complaint, says Shine.
“The part we’re investigating here is who allowed her to leave the facility,” says Shine. “It appears that there were some permissions that were given for Mrs. Shields by the family, be they written, be they verbal – we’re investigating – to allow her visitation for a variety of different reasons.”
Shine says he believes the journalist “was familiar to Mrs. Shields” and that the journalist “did sign her out and was allowed to leave by personnel.”
As for whether the elder Shields was driven around, Shine says, “We’re still investigating that.”