Man pleads guilty after young children found wandering

2 boys, girl under 5 found wandering on Southside in April

Headline Goes Here Photo courtesy of Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office

Police say they found thee children aged 1 to 4 years old walking alone Sunday afternoon on San Diego Road.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A man who called to report three young children missing in April about three hours after they were found wandering in a Southside neighborhood pleaded guilty Tuesday.

Lanard Bell, 23, pleaded guilty to three counts of child neglect, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Bell was released on 44 days time served in jail and placed on two years of probation. He was also ordered to take parenting classes, drug testing twice a month, and have no contact with the children unless approved by the Department of Children and Families.

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, a citizen found the two boys and a girl ages 1 to 4 years old alone on San Diego Road and called police and stayed with them until officers arrived.

Police said the children were in good condition. Within an hour of making a public appeal to help find the parents of the children, police said they found them.

Officers responded to Bell's house after he called to report the children missing. Police said the place was in "utter disarray," with marijuana, a pipe and scale found in the living room. Dirty diapers were on the floor, there was spoiled food on the floor and in the kitchen, and the only usable beds in the house had no sheets.

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the children's mother, Ashley Boothe, asked Bell to watch the children while she was in the hospital.

According to the arrest report, Bell admitted he made a mistake. He said while he promised Boothe he would care for the kids, he fell asleep about 2 p.m.

Boothe said Bell is dedicated father who simply fell asleep on the couch while watching his kids. She said her children are adventurous and love to be outside.

Boothe said she was in the hospital recovering from pneumonia and severe acid reflux when the children wandered off.

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