NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – A traffic stop for an active warrant and suspicion of driving without a valid license turned into a child neglect case that sent two people to jail early Tuesday morning, according to the Nassau County Sheriff's Office.
Daryl Roberts Jr., 44, and Jennifer Wylie, 38, are each charged with three counts of felony child neglect after deputies said they discovered three children were not properly restrained inside the vehicle that was stopped.
Roberts and Wylie were identified as the parents of the children -- a 7-month-old, a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old -- by the children’s grandmother, who asked not to be identified by name.
The grandmother, who is Roberts' mother, told News4Jax that she now has custody of the children and the Department of Children and Families is helping her after the children's parents were arrested.
According to an arrest report obtained by News4Jax, a Nassau County deputy was on patrol near Maplewood Court about 2 a.m. Tuesday when he spotted a GMC Yukon hauling a trailer. The deputy noted in the report that he had prior knowledge that the driver of the SUV was Roberts, who had an active Nassau County warrant and was without a valid driver’s license, as Roberts' license has been suspended since May 2001.
The deputy with prior knowledge of Roberts and another deputy attempted to pull over the SUV when, according to the deputies, the SUV sped up and swerved into the opposite lane of travel that led to a brief chase along Ratliff Road until the SUV finally came to a stop.
Roberts and Wylie were both removed from the SUV and taken into custody.
Deputies noted in the report that two children were in the middle seat of the SUV. Deputies said one of the children was standing on a large amount of loose items and was not strapped into a car seat while the other child was sitting in a car seat that was not belted down. According to the report, deputies located a third child in a car seat carrier that was loose and not properly strapped in.
Deputies said that child was sitting behind a rusted car radiator with sharp edges that was at the head of the seat. The report states the third, youngest child was also covered by black garbage bags and steel-toe boots. The child, according to deputies, appeared to be severely overheated, covered in sweat and unresponsive to touch or voice. The child was taken out of the SUV and placed into an air-conditioned patrol car to cool off until paramedics could arrive. According to the report, it took five minutes for the child to cool and appear to be back to normal.
As deputies investigated the SUV, they said they determined that neither the vehicle tag nor the vehicle belonged to Roberts or Wylie. Deputies also noted in the report that conditions inside the SUV were deplorable with:
- Auto parts
- Wet clothing
- Massive amounts of clothing
- Hazardous tools
Deputies said a search of the SUV turned up marijuana and crystal meth.
According to the report, Wylie told deputies that the marijuana belonged to her and that they were all living out of the SUV. The children's grandmother said she was unaware of that.
"I thought he went somewhere else. I didn’t know he was getting them babies all ate up with mosquitoes and everything else, not feeding them or giving them clean clothes, baths or nothing," the grandmother said.
Deputies also noted in the report that the children were given bottled water and Gatorade and that the children were "extremely hungry," so the deputies purchased the children a Happy Meal from McDonald’s. The children's grandmother was then called to pick up them up.
“My oldest only had a shirt and pair of underwear on. The others were completely soaked in urine," she said. "I can't let my grandbabies go through all this."
In addition to being charged with three counts of child neglect, Wylie is also charged with felony possession of methamphetamine and misdemeanor possession of marijuana, according to online Nassau County jail records.
Roberts is also charged with three counts of child neglect, as well as four misdemeanor counts of failing to appear in court, one misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license and one felony count of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, because deputies said he was in possession of pepper spray.
Florida Department of Corrections records show that Roberts served more than a year in prison in the mid-1990s for a burglary conviction in Duval County. According to court records, he also has previous arrests and convictions on charges of DUI and illegal drug possession.
According to Roberts' mother, he and Wylie have both struggled with addiction. She said she has done everything humanly possible to help them live better lives.
“All I can do is cry. It’s horrible. I’m got to have to keep them," said the grandmother, who recently battled cancer. "They can’t touch these babies anymore.”
As the investigation continues, the grandmother said she will fight to gain full custody of the children.