Baby offered in trade for food ID'd, safe
Child's mother arrested on unrelated charges
A baby and the man who police said offered to trade the child for food over the weekend have been identified, and the infant's mother is in custody on unrelated charges.
Orange Park police say the man and 3-month-old boy were shown in surveillance photos going door to door Saturday night at the Orange Park Rodeway Inn off Park Avenue near Interstate 295, with the man offering to trade the boy for something to eat.
Police said they managed to identify the man and baby through tips from the community and a review of reports from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and FDLE files, and found the boy and a 4-year-old sibling child in their mother's custody.
"As no charges have yet been filed, we cannot release the name and identity of the man involved, though it appears the infant was never in danger," Orange Park police Detective Garry Briggs said in a statement Tuesday morning.
Police said the child's mother, 32-year-old Jaime Rathje (pictured right), was arrested Monday night at a Hospitality Inn off 103rd Street and Interstate 295 on the Westside of Jacksonville on an unrelated misdemeanor charge -- an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court -- and booked into the Duval County jail. She was released Tuesday on bail.
The two children were temporarily placed with a foster parent.
"The mother was by herself," Briggs said. "There was no one there to care for the children, and there was also a history that (the Department of Children and Families) decided to go ahead and take custody of the children."
"The mother does have two other children. They are not with the same father," DCF spokesman John Harrell said. "We're currently checking on the welfare of those children. They're in another part of the state. They are not in the care of DCF."
Police said they've also found and talked with the man accused of offering the child up. Charges against him and the mother related to the baby trade attempt are pending while police and the state attorney's office continue to investigate.
"All along, the welfare of the child, making sure the child was safe and healthy was our primary concern," Briggs said. "Any kind of prosecution was a secondary concern when the life and the health of a 3-month-old infant are at issue."
"We need to investigate thoroughly," Harrell said. "We need to find out facts, find information. We don't want to prejudge any case, but we do want to emphasize: Look, if you have families out there struggling, this is no way to solve this problem to try to offer a child up for trade or even to let someone "borrow a child." That should not be happening. That is putting a child at risk."
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