81ºF

Neptune Beach police find parents of wandering 3-year-old girl

DCF, police investigating how child got several blocks from home

NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – A 3-year-old girl found wandering several blocks from home in the middle of the night was reunited with her parents Monday morning, the Neptune Beach Police Department said.

A passing driver noticed her by herself around 3:30 a.m. on the side of Kings Road near Florida Boulevard. She was crying under a street light, NBPD Cmdr. Mike Key said.

According to the driver's 911 call, he and his wife were headed to the airport for a trip to Maine when they spotted the child by herself, and they stopped to help.

LISTEN: 911 call, Neptune Beach police alert

"We were just coming out of the neighborhood and there's a 2½-year-old standing in the middle of the road," the caller said. "I guess she said she walked out of the house. She doesn't know where she lives."

Search for parents

Investigators launched a neighborhood canvass, going door-to-door with a picture of the little girl to find her parents or guardian.

They also issued a Reverse 911 call, alerting residents to the search for the girl's parents and asking anyone with information to call the police department.

A neighbor who recognized the child was able to direct investigators to her parents, who lived three to four blocks away from where she was found, Key said.

Key said it appears the girl slipped out of her home through the front door and the parents had no idea she wasn't in her bed.

"They were very, very upset at first," Key said.

Key said investigators currently do not believe there were any signs of neglect or intentional wrongdoing, but the Department of Children and Families was called to the home as detectives continued their investigation. 

Police thanked the public's quick response in helping with the search for the girl's family. 

The girl's father, who News4Jax is not naming to protect the child's privacy, issued a statement Monday, expressing gratitude to everyone involved in bringing his daughter home safely.

"We are all doing well, just processing a lot of feelings. We are so thankful for everyone who helped, especially the good people who saw her and phoned 911, the Neptune Beach Police Department and DCF. Although our doors were locked, we have now added additional locks."

'Wake-up call'

Key said the situation was a literal wake-up call for parents of young children.

Steve Proctor, who owns an Ace Hardware around the corner, offered ideas for families to make sure their children don’t wander away.

"This one is a flip lock which is mounted above the level which your child can reach," Proctor explained. "None of them are very expensive."

Proctor said that while flip locks are good, he recommends simple door and window alarms and new Wi-Fi cameras, like the Ring surveillance device, which send live video to your phone when motion is detected.

"If your child did get out with this and it rang, you would have video of which direction they would go," Proctor said.


About the Authors: