80ºF

Police: Great-grandmother let kids leave with 'mentally unstable' mom

Woman arrested on child neglect charge for alllowing children to leave

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 69-year-old woman was arrested after allowing her two great-grandchildren to leave a Northwest Jacksonville home Monday evening with their "mentally unstable" mother who had been previously held for psychiatric evaluation, authorities said. 

Juanita Moore Coakley, 69, of Jacksonville faces a felony charge of child neglect, according to Duval County Jail records.

About 8:15 p.m., a patient was being dropped off at the Mental Health Resource Center on West 20th Street when she pulled the fire alarm and fled the facility, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Sharmeka Leshaunda Jackson, 24, later showed up naked and bloody at her home on St. Clair Street on Commonwealth Avenue and left with her two young children, who were under the care of their great-grandmother for about an hour. 

The Sheriff's Office began looking for the children, who were considered endangered. 

Investigators discovered Jackson had been committed for being a threat to herself and others and MHRC staff believed she was schizophrenic, JSO said. Her children were placed in the custody of their great-grandmother after Jackson was first Baker Acted for breaking into a house with her children earlier in the day, investigators said. 

Jackson was "claiming that she was God" and "related to Michael Jackson" as well as saying "she was going to harm her children," the report said. She was then taken to the mental health facility and the Department of Children and Families placed the kids in Coakley's care. 

Investigators said Coakley later admitted that "she messed up" and should have called the police after allowing Jackson to take the children. 

Reginald Estell Jr., Coakley’s attorney, explained why she didn’t make that call.

"She did not [call police]. She's on the phone with her nephew Charles and she thought Charles would call police and he thought she was going to call police it was just confusing from their discussion that's what brings us here."

Estell says Jackson’s mental issues and Baker Acts are all stemming from the recent death of her grandmother -- who is Coakley’s daughter.

"Juanita Coakley’s daughter died March 4. It's been about two weeks since a funeral and because of that that her daughter who is Sharmeka Jackson having some emotional problems and it's understandable. That happens," he said. "The family will work through it."

Several hours later, just after 11 p.m., police said, Jackson and the children were found at her brother's home on Myra Street, several blocks of north of Post Street.

Jackson was arrested and charged with escape from involuntary commitment in a mental program and false alarm of fires, according to the arrest report.

Coakley was arrested and DCF placed the children in the care of friends of the family, JSO said. 

She bonded out of jail Tuesday afternoon, jail records show. Her attorney says he is going to try to get her charges dropped.

Coakley cannot have any contact with any of her grandchildren except for her 15-year-old great-grandchild who she is the guardian of.

Stay with News4Jax for updates in this developing story. 


About the Authors: