Starke couple charged with child neglect after 3-year-old found wandering alone

Police also say parent's apartment was dangerous, filled with choke hazards

By Erik Avanier - Reporter

STARKE, Fla. - A Bradford County couple were arrested Wednesday morning after their 3-year-old son was found wandering alone outside an apartment complex, the Starke Police Department said.

Hannah Hall, 24, and Justin Mayberry, 22, both face felony child neglect charges.

Police said a maintenance employee at the Whispering Oaks Apartments found the little boy by himself on a sidewalk with his pants around his ankles. 

Police were called and eventually spoke to Hall and Mayberry, who both told officers that they fell asleep and had no idea their 3-year-old had left their third-floor apartment by himself. 

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said the couple could have done more to keep their child safe. 

"A parent is responsible for the safety of the child 24 hours. Even when they’re asleep, doors should be secured and functioning. Everything should be in place to provide for that child’s safety, so ignorance of the law or not knowing where the child is -- that is not an excuse," Smith said.

According to police, lack of providing a safe environment is what landed the couple in jail.

In an arrest report, detectives said the couple's apartment was dangerous -- with choke hazards on the floor, along with sharp knives and heavy pots and pans within a child's reach.

Police said they found standing water left in a bathtub, dirty dishes in the sink and dirty clothing scatted throughout the apartment. Officers also noticed the chain on the door was broken, which allowed the young boy to walk out. 

"It's sad because I have a 3-year-old myself, and I'm over-protective about my kids. I wish I could have stepped outside and saw the child and helped him myself, but I didn't know," neighbor Venicia Davis said.

Smith said it's fortunate someone found the child. 

"The child could have been hit," Smith said. "He’s very small, also he could have just wandered out into the street, or someone could have grabbed the child and taken off. It only takes a few seconds to grab him and go. The child is very fortunate that way. Now the state needs to make sure all his other needs are provided for.”

The 3-year-old was placed in the custody of his grandmother, investigators said. 

Hall and Mayberry were booked into the Bradford County Jail on $5,000 bond each. 

According to the police report, the manager of the apartment complex told officers that they had a similar incident happen with the child a few months ago, and the chain on the door came apart that time as well. The manager told officers that the complex had a new chain installed to prevent this from happening again. 

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