Columbia County children found safe, parents facing charges after Amber Alert issued

Children found in motel in neighboring county

LAKE CITY, Fla. – After a Florida Amber Alert was issued Wednesday evening for two children last seen in Lake City, authorities announced Thursday that the children had been found safe and their biological parents had been taken into custody.

When they issued the Amber Alert, investigators said the children might be in the company of David Evans, 24, and Sydni Jones, 23, who are their biological parents but do not have custody of the children after a court order.

Police say the parents snuck the children -- ages 2 and 4 -- out of a home at around 5 p.m. Wednesday.

According to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, the children were found around 1 p.m. Thursday at a motel -- the Steamboat Dive Inn near the Suwannee River in Branford, which is in Suwannee County, the neighboring county to the west.

The owner of the motel helped police raid the room, where he said they found the 2-year-old asleep and the 4-year-old sitting on a bed.

“I was successful in having the customers open the door and allow me access to the room for a plumbing problem,” Dustin Clesi said. “They seemed completely normal. The male was particularly clean-cut, very polite.”

Clesi said the couple checked in Wednesday afternoon for two days.

Both parents were taken into custody without incident, deputies said. The Department of Children and Families was called in to check on the children’s well-being.

“We are very grateful for the outcome of this case,” Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter. “I would like to commend our team of detectives, along with the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office, FDLE, federal law enforcement partners, and local community for helping to bring this case to a quick and safe conclusion.”

Jail records show David Evans was arrested last October for domestic battery and felony battery and twice failed to appear in court.

Evans and Jones will be taken to the Suwannee County jail on the Columbia County warrants and will have their first appearance Friday morning in Suwannee County court before being returned to Columbia County at some point after.

NOTE: News4Jax has removed the names and photos of the children from this article because they are no longer considered in danger.

About the Authors: