JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville mother and her five children have been found safe after a Florida Missing Child Alert was issued Monday, police said.
Kimber Clark and her children were found in an abandoned building, where they had been since Sunday night, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Temperatures overnight fell into the 40s.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, investigators were looking for Clark, 29, and the children, who had last been seen near Merrill Road and Hartsfield Road in the Arlington area.
Shortly after the children were found, the grandmother of the youngest child told News4Jax she was relieved.
"I am ecstatic that the kids were found. (My grandson) is safe, his siblings are safe, and Kim is safe," Heather Gaylord said. "This is what I wanted to happen. I wanted them to be found safe and OK.”
Police have provided no details about how or exactly where the family was found, except to say they were in an abandoned building. News4Jax was told they were found in an empty six-story building, with broken and boarded-up windows, off the Arlington Expressway.
Police thanked "everyone who helped us get this information out."
Heather Gaylord said she wasn't angry at Clark, even though she disappeared with Gaylord's 2-year-old grandson.
"I’m disappointed in Kim, because Kim knows that we would take these children and help her," Heather Gaylord said. "We’ve done it many times in the past and would still do it. You know, (he) is our grandson, and we still care about the other children as well, and they don’t need to be shuffled. They need stability and they need to know where home is."
Alexus Gaylord, the aunt of one of Clark's children, said she now wants custody of her nephew.
"I think that it's unacceptable and I think that she shouldn't have custody of her kids," the aunt said. "I hope that all the kids have a safe place to go and my family can get my nephew."
Alexus Gaylord said Clark is currently under investigation by the Florida Department of Children and Families after Clark dropped her nephew off at her house in January and then took off with him in February.
“I said, 'Yes, I can take care of him.' I got him enrolled in school. I got him on a schedule. He was doing really good," the aunt said.
News4Jax asked attorney Rhonda Peoples-Waters whether Clark could face charges in the case.
"It looks like this is more of a case, potentially, of the dependency court system, where there is a much lower bar as to bringing these type of agencies in to provide assistance to her as a mother," Peoples-Waters said.
A DCF spokesman sent News4Jax the following statement:
The first priority of the Florida Department of Children and Families is child safety. Every report made to the Florida Abuse Hotline is carefully evaluated based on statutory criteria and all investigations look into the concerns brought to our attention. Additionally, we determine what can be done to assist the children and the parents. DCF’s Child Protective Investigators are thorough, caring, and compassionate. They are knowledgeable about local resources that can help families, and they encourage families to seek that help. We have worked closely with law enforcement in the effort to locate the children and their mother, and we are thankful that they have been found safely."
Family reported missing
A witness told officers that he met up with Clark in the parking lot of a Walmart Neighborhood Market on Merrill Road about 11 p.m. Sunday. He said Clark told him she recently became homeless and described her as "depressed and suicidal."
He said Clark, who was driving a 2007 black Toyota pickup, opened a beer and started drinking. He said her oldest daughter was in the passenger seat, but he wasn't sure if her four other children were in the truck. The man told police that he made Clark pour out the beer and urged her to seek help.
According to a police incident report, Clark refused efforts to get help. "DCF will not help me with the kids and they will be better off without me. I am just going to kill myself," Clark stated, according to the witness account.
The man said he immediately called police, noting that Clark drove away once she realized what he was doing. He said he followed her until he lost sight of her when she turned on Dalehurst Drive.
#JSO has located missing woman Kimber Clark and all five children safe inside an abandoned building where they have been since last night. Thank you to everyone who helped us get this information out. https://t.co/Us7EsQutYs— Jax Sheriff's Office (@JSOPIO) March 26, 2018
News4Jax has chosen not to name the children or show their photos since they have been found.