Lake City man faces child abuse charges, deputies say

Authorities remove 6 children younger than 16 from home

Columbia County Sheriff's Office booking photo of Ernest Simmons.
Columbia County Sheriff's Office booking photo of Ernest Simmons.

LAKE CITY, Fla. – Deputies arrested a Lake City man Wednesday for multiple counts of child abuse and neglect, according to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.

The investigation began Tuesday evening when a child walked into the Lake City Police Department reporting physical and emotional abuse, deputies said. Since the suspected crime happened in the unincorporated area of the county, a deputy responded and took the complaint.

The deputy learned the child was one of six children in the home and while taking the statement, he sent another deputy to 4982 N.W. Lake Jeffery Rd. to check on the other children, the Sheriff's Office said.

The home visit by the deputy prompted a call to the Department of Children and Families. Deputies said an investigator arrived at the home and removed the six children -- ranging in the ages of 6 to 16 -- to suitable locations as the investigation progressed. A detective assumed the investigation and developed probable cause for an arrest.

Ernest Simmons, 58 was arrested on suspicion of three counts of cruelty towards a child and three counts of child neglect. Deputies said he is currently being held on $90,000 bond in the Columbia County Detention Facility.

The investigation continues with additional charges expected, the Sheriff's Office said.