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Mother of abandoned child arrested

De'Janny Raggins' family says she needs mental treatment

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Less than 12 hours after a young girl was abandoned in a stranger's car, the child's 20-year-old mother was arrested and charged with child neglect.

Police said the woman, later identified as De'Janny Sha'Maree Raggins, was walking with the child along San Juan Avenue on Saturday afternoon when a man said she jumped into the passenger seat of his car with the child. The driver asked what she was doing, then, after receiving a phone call, she jumped out and ran toward Lakeshore Boulevard, leaving her 6- to 12-month-old child behind.

De'Janny Raggins' sister, Chasity Fleming said the idea of Raggins abandoning her nine-month old with a stranger--was completely out of her character.

"We were very torn about it, because that's not De'Janny...She's a very good mother. She makes sure they have whatever they need. She loves her kids," said Fleming.  

According to the arrest report, after rescue personnel determined the child was healthy, she was turned over to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

However, Raggins' family said the incident is just a piece of the strange activity that came out of nowhere.

Fleming said her sister had not been herself lately and on December 18, she was baker acted and taken to UF Health for a mental evaluation.

"She would out of the ordinary just stare at you with this evil look. She doesn't look like herself and she has not been eating. They prescribed her medicine and she obviously wasn't taking it because she was getting worse and worse over the days," she said. 

Fleming said just hours before Raggins abandoned her baby, she tried to take her sister back to the hospital but she refused. Now the family of De'Janny Raggins just wants her to get the right treatment.  

A helicopter and ground search of the immediate area turned up no sign of the Raggins, but a canvas of the neighborhood led officers to an apartment where she lived, but she was not home.

After releasing the child's photo to the media on Saturday evening, police received calls from the family and the mother herself, who they learned about midnight was at the Taco Bell on 103rd Street.

When Raggins was asked if she knew why she was being detained, she said, "Because someone took my baby," according to the police report.

John Harrell with the DCF said the baby is in a foster home and his agency has begun its own investigation.

A program called Safe Haven for Newborns allows parents to leave infants 7 days old and younger and walk away without any questions or legal consequences. While this child was not that young, the program's founder said taking the child to one of their locations or calling 211, they can get the help they need.

"The idea is hopefully to keep a mom with her child," said founder Nick Silverio. "(This mother) obviously was having other problems that she didn't have any help, maybe with the family, or with the boyfriend, difficulties with the boyfriend, and therefore she could have gotten some counseling or other support systems in the community."

Since the foundation was created in 2001, 218 babies have been left. In five cases, Silverio said they've been able to get the babies back to their mothers after the women had changes of heart. 

"I hope that she gets the right help. I just want her to come back--she's not herself. I just want them to help her the best ability they can and get my sis back to where she was and that's normal," said Fleming. 

The nine month old was placed with family members and is doing well. Raggins has been moved from general population to a more confined area in jail.