2 charged after Jacksonville child found wandering alone

Boy was left with uncles while mother was away working

By Destiny McKeiver - Multi-media journalist, News4Jax.com Staff

Booking photos of Julian Stephens and Joseph Salters

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Police have arrested two brothers after their 3-year-old nephew was found wandering around by himself Saturday evening, authorities said.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Sunday that 20-year-old Julian Stephens and 17-year-old Joseph Salters were playing video games while they were supposed to be watching the child. They now face charges of child abuse and neglect.

The child was located by police about 6:15 p.m. Saturday. He remained in their care for several hours as police made multiple pleas on social media for help locating his guardians.

After noticing the child was gone and a door to the home was open, Stephens and Salters went to a convenience store where customers were talking about the case, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Stephens then contacted a relative, who reached out to police. But the Sheriff's Office said the pair did not go looking for the boy after realizing he was gone, nor did they alert proper authorities or seek help locating him.

The Florida Department of Children and Families said it is working with law enforcement to gather information on the child's living situation and circumstances that led up to the incident.

The mother speaks out

The little boy's mom, Josephine Salters, spoke to News4Jax to tell her side of the story.

The teen mom said she had a routine going. She would go to work and leave her son home with her brothers. She said she's shocked by what happened, but she wants people to know she doesn’t feel she deserves the blame.

“The first thing somebody would think is, ‘Where is the mother?' Or 'Where was the parent?’ I was at work. I didn't know what happened,” Josephine Salters said. “For some people to say that I don't take care of my child or I need to go to jail or somebody needs to take him from me, they need to shut up.”

Josephine Salters told News4Jax that she’s trying to make an honest living for her and her son. She said Saturday was no different than any other day.

“I'm like y'all where is Levis? And they were, like, ‘He's in the house.’ I'm like, ‘What are y'all talking about? He's in the house? No, he's not in the house,’” she said.

She said that's when the panic set in. She said she ran door to door in her neighborhood, asking people had they seen her baby.

It wasn’t until she saw a News4Jax Facebook live feed that she learned the police had her baby in custody.
Josephine Salters said she's getting a lot of backlash about the whole thing.

“I just wanted to let people know that I'm not a bad mother or a bad person in general,” she said. “I can't go to work and watch him at the same time. Somebody has to watch him. If I can't go to work, and I have to stay at home with him, I'll do that until I'll be able to work again.”

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