PALATKA, Fla. – Two adults were arrested after they were found with meth at a park while their five children were left alone in a nearby motel, the Palatka Police Department said.
Christopher Scranton, 34, and Shannon Scranton, 32, are each charged with five counts of child neglect, one count of possession of methamphetamine without a prescription and one count of possession of drug equipment.
According to a four-page arrest report obtained by News4Jax, shortly after 11:30 p.m. Sunday, a patrol officer spotted a black Chevrolet TrailBlazer that was double-parked in the parking lot of the Riverfront Park off U.S. Highway 17. Police said the Scrantons were in the SUV.
While one officer was checking their identification, another officer said he noticed a clear plastic bag with a crystallized substance under Shannon Scranton’s leg. The Scrantons were then ordered out of the SUV and that's when an officer searched Christopher Scranton and took him into custody for having "contraband," the report said.
According to the officers, the bag that was under Shannon Scranton’s leg weighed 3.3 grams and contained methamphetamine. When the SUV was searched, officers said they found several drug paraphernalia items, including glass pipes, spoons, torches and plastic baggies.
During the course of their investigation, according to the report, officers also arrested the couple on child neglect charges because the couple had left five children alone in a room at the Regency motel while they were allegedly abusing meth at the park 0.1 miles away. The arresting officers noted in the report that although the motel was nearby, the couple’s SUV was faced away from the motel, "giving the parents no view of their children's room."
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said those are the little things that the Department of Children and Families looks at while considering whether or not it’s safe to allow the parents to regain custody of their children.
“It will almost take an act of Congress in a situation like this," Jefferson said. "The last thing DCF wants to do is separate children from their parents, however, when it’s a willful neglect situations like this, it makes their job a little bit easier because the parents are saying to DCF they are unfit parents to have these children.”
Both Scrantons were booked into the Putnam County jail just after 1 a.m. Monday on $15,000 bond each, according to online jail records. Shannon Scranton posted bond and was released about 1:45 p.m. Monday, jail records show.
It’s unclear if the children were taken into protective custody by DCF or released to a relative. Either way, according to Jefferson, it will be hard for the parents to get their children back.
“This is an acute case of child neglect when you leave five small children by themselves without adult supervision while you go and do something against the law," he said. "Law enforcement will frown on that, but more so Children and Family Services, which controls custody of your kids.”
A spokesperson for the Police Department was not able to provide News4Jax with an age range of the children, citing Marsy’s Law.