A 31-year-old woman was charged with cruelty to children after she dropped off her 2-year-old daughter in a ditch Tuesday evening in Ringgold, Ga.
She then walked into a nearby home -- even though she didn't know the residents -- so she could watch through the windows to see if someone picked up her child, according to a police report.
When Jennifer Haines was later questioned, she told police she was addicted to prescription drugs and could no longer take care of her daughter.
Haines told police she left the child near a children's playground in hopes that a "nice family would find her and care for her," the report states.
She was arrested and charged with reckless conduct causing harm or endangerment, contributing to child deprivation, second-degree cruelty to children and possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce.
"It's not an everyday occurrence in small town America," said Ringgold Police Deputy Chief Wilburn Dycus.
Several drivers called Ringgold police Tuesday when they spotted the toddler walking down LaFayette Street in only shorts and a diaper around 6:30 p.m., the report states. It was raining and the temperature was in the upper 50s at the time.
When the toddler tripped and fell in the mud and began to cry, several motorists stopped and someone wrapped the child in a coat while waiting for police to arrive.
Police found Haines at a nearby house but didn't know the people who lived in there, according to the report. A teenage boy who lived there called police and said, "There's a woman in our house that just walked in and won't leave."
At first Haines told police that the toddler's nanny had left the child alone. Then she changed her story and said she had driven the child to Ringgold. Afterwards, Haines said she hugged and kissed the toddler goodbye and then ran across the street to watch.
The child was placed in foster care and Haines was taken to Catoosa County Jail.
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...