Jessica McCraney is a 42-year-old resident of Garden Lane in west Bunnell. Sidney McCraney is her 49-year-old husband. Monday evening, both ended up at the Flagler County jail, Sidney facing a domestic battery charge, Jessica facing two felony charges, including battery on a person older than 65–her mother in law–and child abuse.
They were released on Tuesday. Often in cases of abuse the person facing the charge is under court order to have no contact with the alleged victims. In this case, Jessica McCraney was allowed to return home, under orders to have no “violent” contact with the victims.
The incident started when two brothers, 13 and 11, got into an argument over soda. One of them was drinking the other’s drink. One of the boys threw a soda can in the living room. It burst all over the other boy. His maternal grandmother, who is 70, got upset that he used clean towels to clean himself up and slapped him. He punched her in the mouth with the same hand holding an unopened can of soda.
When Jessica got home and learned of the incident, she allegedly took a belt to the 13-year-old boy, and along the way got into an argument with the boys’ paternal grandmother (both grandmothers live at the house), allegedly striking her in the arm. The in-law had been upset that Jessica was cursing at her son while disciplining him, and of picking on one boy over the other.
Sidney got home as all that was unfolding. He described the scene as “everyone screaming and fighting,” according to an arrest report, with Jessica hitting one of her sons “for no apparent reason.” Sidney stepped between mother and child and got struck on the leg, “inadvertently,” the arrest report states. According to Jessica’s account to Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies, Sidney then “grabbed the belt out of her hands and proceeded to strike her multiple times with the belt.” She had several visible bruises on her right arm. Sidney told deputies he never struck Jessica, but took the boys to Shell Bluff, where they had dinner.
Deputies placed the two parents under arrest and notified the Department of Children and Families, which will be conducting its own investigation.
Sheriff Rick Staly described it as “a family free-for-all that resulted in half of the household going to jail.” He noted that “We’re living in exceptionally high-stress times right now and it is important to practice self-control and de-escalate the situation before it turns violent. I hope that this family is able to heal from this and gets help for anger management.”
On Wednesday, his agency issued a lengthy release noting an increase in domestic violence and road rage incidents locally, paralleling an increase across the nation, though crime remains historically low in the county.
“While always unacceptable behavior, the recent increases in these two offenses are believed to be influenced by individuals responding poorly to Covid-19 stress and pressures which are significant and prolonged in nature,” the release states. The pandemic has compelled people to stay at home more often and to be more on-edge than normal, sometimes resulting in violent outbursts, introducing a knife or gun in an argument or resulting in road rage incidents.”