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Friends defend mother of toddler who drowned in tub

Josie Clay, 22, would never put children in harm's way, friends say

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Two friends of a Nassau County woman who is being questioned after her 14-month-old daughter drowned in a bathtub spoke up in her defense. 

According to the Nassau County Sheriff's Office, the 14-month-old and her 3-year-old sister were left alone in a bathtub at their home on Linda Hall Road on Tuesday afternoon.

Deputies said that when their mother, 22-year-old Josie Clay, returned after having left the girls alone for just a few minutes for unknown reasons, the younger girl was underwater.

Clay has been in contact with her friends, who said that although the drowning is still under investigation, they feel like this couldn’t be more than just a freak accident, because Clay would never put her children in harm's way.

While playing with her son in the backyard, Bailey McKnight told News4Jax on Wednesday that she keeps a closer eye on her toddler after her close friend, Clay, is dealing with the drowning of her 14-month-old daughter.

“I can’t even begin to believe it," McKnight said. "It kind makes me think, like, anything could happen to my child.”

Clay’s friends said she is a caring mother and would never do anything to hurt her children.

“(She is) a really great mom, an awesome mom," McKnight said. "She goes above and beyond for her children. She always has her kids. Her kids are dressed to the best. They’ve got the nicest things.”

“Mistakes happen," Clay's friend Kami Dayl said. "Nobody’s perfect.”

Dayl, who has two young daughters the same age as Clay, said her heart dropped when she learned of the drowning.

“It’s devastating. It really is, because as a mom, I couldn’t imagine what she’s going through now and what she will go through," Dayl said.

Both McKnight and Dayl have known Clay for several years. They said her life is dedicated to her daughters and her love for training and riding horses.

“She goes to a bunch of rodeos and stuff, and she even takes the girls with her, and the oldest one, she loves little horses, ponies. She loves it,” Dayl said. 

McKnight added, "Her kids are there every time. She's always got her kids with her, so I know she's a good mom."

After speaking with Clay on the phone Wednesday, McKnight said she can’t imagine what her friend is going through.

“She needed her time and wanted everybody to know that she hopes that they all support her and hopes that they all know this would never be intentional and that this was literally an accident," McKnight said. "She can’t even believe that this would happen.”

McKnight said Clay also told her to let this tragedy be an eye opener for her as well, and to never take her eyes off of her son.

“I’m a mom," she said. "I’ve got my own son, and I’ve definitely been there -- having to walk away for a few seconds -- and anything could happen.”

"She's a great mom. She's a great friend. She's always been there," Dayl said.

The Department of Children and Families and the Sheriff’s Office are still investigating the drowning.

As of Wednesday night, no charges had been filed against Clay.

About the Author:

Reports weeknights for The Ten O'Clock News and News4Jax at 11.