A Georgia woman could face jail time after allowing her teenage daughter to watch her younger siblings during the 2020 pandemic lockdown.
Melissa Henderson, of Blairsville, was charged with reckless criminal driving after leaving her four youngest children with her eldest, 14-year-old Linley, in May 2020 after the COVID pandemic forced the children’s daycare center to close.
According to court documents, Henderson was at work when Linley, who was in an online classroom, failed to notice his 4-year-old brother had left the house after spotting his friend outside. About 15 minutes later, Linley noticed the boy was missing and headed to the friend’s house, where she found him safe, reports Reason Magazine.
The friend’s house is directly across from Henderson’s house and easily visible from the front windows, but by the time Linley brought the boy home, his friend’s mother had already contacted the police.
Deputy Sheriff Marc Pilote, who responded to the incident, wrote in his report that something terrible could have happened to the child, including being abducted, hit by a car or “bitten by a poisonous snake”.
Later, several police cars showed up at Anderson’s home and placed her under arrest.
“I have almost no words for how bad this made me feel,” Henderson told Reason Magazine. “To really feel deep in my heart that if I’m anything, it’s a good mother and everything you do is for your children. To be stripped of that to the point of being handcuffed in front of them.
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Prior to the incident, Henderson was under investigation by the Department of Human Services (DHS) after her same son wandered off outdoors when he was three years old. Pilote investigated and reportedly indicated that the child’s latest outing shows a pattern of reckless driving on Henderson’s part.
“They claim the same thing happened a year earlier,” said David DeLugas, the founder of ParentsUSA who represents Henderson.
“So you say a year ago she left her kids to look after her then 13, almost 14, and somehow two rights hurt. It wasn’t bad then, and it’s not bad now.
Henderson could now face up to a year in prison for reckless driving, although DHS guidelines say children ages 13 and older can legally babysit for up to 12 p.m.
“Children thirteen years of age and older, who have reached an adequate level of maturity, may be left alone and may act as babysitters, with parental permission, for up to twelve hours,” says DHS.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has been set up to help Henderson with the legal fees.
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