Tessie L. Clark, the 28-year-old mother of a 3-year-old boy, was charged with felony child neglect Tuesday (Feb. 16) after the boy was found wandering around Palm Coast’s B-Section unsupervised for an hour around midday.
A 35-year-old resident of the B-Section who was driving in the area of Beechwood Lane alerted authorities after seeing the child wandering the streets with a small dog, just 50 yards from Belle Terre Parkway. A lawn crew and another resident in the area told the Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy who responded that they’d seen the child walking about alone for about half an hour.
The child himself had no shoes on and was covered in dirt, according to a sheriff’s report. He could not understand the deputy who asked him questions, having a “very limited vocabulary.” (Children that age generally command only about 200 words or so). Several additional deputies canvassed the area, going door to door to find the child’s home.
As they were doing so and the child was in one of the deputies’ protective custody, Sandra Elswick, the child’s maternal grandmother, drove up in a vehicle. She “got out of her vehicle and immediately began yelling at [the toddler],” saying that her pregnant daughter was at home, looking for him. Deputies then went to the house itself at 58 Beechwood Lane. By then another deputy had seen Clark walking in the area of 38 Beechwood, where she told the deputy she was looking for her lost son.
Clark told deputies that she would generally let her son play in the backyard unsupervised, and had done so on Tuesday to go back in, ostensibly to do some cleaning. The backyard is fenced in. But the fence is damaged. A deputy asked her how long she’d left him unsupervised that day before checking on him. “I’m not going to lie,” she allegedly responded. “It’s been a little bit.”
As she led a deputy through the house on their way to the backyard to check the fence, the deputy noted the neglect inside the house: “It appeared to be dirty, extremely uncared for, and had ketchup packets busted open and smeared on the floors,” the deputy reported. “The inside of the residence reeked of marijuana.” Clark later allegedly admitted to one of the deputies that she smokes pot. The rear of the residence’s screened-in porch had a damaged door with visible nails sticking out, while the backyard “had multiple hazards for young children including large rocks, deep holes in the ground, and a trampoline. The fence appeared to be older and unstable,” with a missing panel. Clark told the deputy she thought that’s how her child got out.
Clark was asked various questions–what had prompted her to leave the child unsupervised, what she was cleaning, what she was doing when she realized her child was missing. Her arrest report notes she was evasive and would not initially give information about her other children, fearing that the Department of Children and Families would get involved and take them away. When she realized her child was missing, she called her mother then went outside to look for him, though she did not call law enforcement.
As the deputies were conducting their investigation, Steven Guy, the child’s father, returned home, upset. He told deputies that Clark normally sleeps during the day and lets the boy roam around the house unsupervised. Guy’s interactions with deputies then deteriorated, according to Clark’s arrest report. “He became agitated with the situation and advised me that if the Department of Children and Families came to his residence,” the investigating deputy reported, “he would tell them to ‘fuck off’ and then leave the state with his children.”
The Department of Children and Families was advised of the situation and responded to the Beechwood Lane house to conduct its own investigation.
Clark was arrested and charged with child neglect, a felony. She was subsequently released on her own recognizance, and ordered as part of her pre-trial release order not to consume alcohol or drugs, though she was not prevented from having contact with the victim or her children. She is to be arraigned on March 8.
“We’re very thankful to the witnesses who came forward and called us when they saw this small child alone in the street,” Sheriff Rick Staly said in a statement. “Luckily the child did not wander onto Belle Terre Parkway or we could have had a much more tragic outcome. I hope DCF is able to teach the parents proper parenting skills and how to be responsible parents to their children.”
Mustard is better says
“ketchup packets busted open and smeared on the floors”… should be worth at least 15 years of hard duty… what a sad failure of a family, and home. Enough said.
This woman is unfit to care for that child which is in grave danger with her, simply because looks like she is a drug addicted.
Place her on rehab and also place the child in a safe environment were she can only visit him under strict supervision.
Leaving the child with her after she goes out of jail and under DCF supervision could be a fatal decision for the child like often happens.
Really! A lawn crew and a resident seen the child wandering for a half hour and did not call authorities Dispicable!
I understand that the child was a toddler and the situation could have ended tragically; the mom probably realizes that as well. But, it’s not like the mom just ignored the fact that her child was missing, she made a parenting mistake. When I was a toddler, the police would just get the kid home – not make an arrest and get DCF involved.
Mary Fusco says
A child living in filth is being neglected. The mom doesn’t realize anything. She admitted to the PO that it had “been a while” since she checked on the baby. That is neglect. The child was dirty, that is neglect. These are not parenting mistakes, it is neglect. The stand up father with the nasty mouth admitted that the mother slept all day and let the kid roam around. That is neglect. Why these people keep having children is beyond me. DCF should have probably been involved long before this.
How would YOU like to be cared for in that manner. If you think it is okay, it is NOT. I came from a dirt poor family, but my PARENT made sure I was cared for and safe. Everyone gots excuses these days, let’s stop with the excuses and get back to being accountable for ones Actions, the way many want people to be responsible for simple words. Actions have more impact than words.
It amazes me how some humans have kids and continue to get pregnant when they are clearly inept at taking the proper care of the one(s) that they already have. It’s all about ‘how much money I can get from Uncle Sam’
It’s a disgusting time we live in right now.
Only Me says
Sounds from reading about this neither the mother or the father need to have any children in their lives until they get professional help on how to be responsible parents. They still sell contraceptives and birth control pills.
Palm Coast Citizen says
So did the father return home from work? A friends house? The store? How long was he gone, and why would he knowingly leave his child in an unsanitary, unsafe environment with someone who is sleeping all day? Will he have charges too? Does he have any culpability? He clearly understood the situation his child was in.
Sad Times says
Oh, I don’t understand you hypocritical Republicans. You complain like hell about parents producing children they can’t take care of…and then turn around and ban abortion.
If you TRULY cared about unwanted children meandering around…if you resent the fact that these children, in many cases, live on Medicaid, etc….you would allow the women’s centers, which provide health care, counseling, and access to abortions.
You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. All you want to do is to take away all help. There is no longer reliable care and counseling available because of your greed and lack of compassion.
Just because you pulled your self up by the boot straps…doesn’t mean that everyone has that ability. I just wish you could walk in others’ shoes…just once.
now moms in jail
paying thousands in probation, court, lawyer fees
baby taken to foster care
to be worse-off than anything
R u kidding me? No supervised visits with the child? Instead she gets to be randomly monitored with them still in her care?
I know someone who the parents are separated. An incident happened at the Dads house… Mom lives in a different part of town and guess what because the mom has a past of 11 yrs ago she still almost a year later doesnt even have unsupervised visits! 11 yrs later and the kicker is because she 11 yrs ago had dcf in her life over a tit for tat argument from a so called friend she didnt finish 1 class yet Dad did so they closed the case! So in bith Mom amd Dads eyes case closed everything was finished…
So 11 yrs later something happens at Dads house… Mom not even involved by any means cant see her 17 yr old because she didnt finish 1 class 11 freaking yrs ago!!!
Wow wow and more wow!
And let me just state for the record dcf was involved because of a retaliation for someone robbing our garage and we pursued charges! Damn sure not the child living in filth and wondering the damn neighborhood!!
Dcf is so ass backwards its disgusting!