Toddler Found on Street, Mother Tamara Jones Arrested at Meth and Snake Filled Home: How Giving a Public Statement in a Criminal Case Can be Risky
The AP reported today about a toddler found by deputies on Tuesday who was "wandering alone on a Texas street", while back at his mother's home police found methamphetamine and more than a dozen snakes. This disturbing news almost has the makings for a joke with a punchline like"...'Well, officer' the toddler replied, 'Honestly I felt safer out here.'" But this case is no joke, as the toddler's mother, Tamara Jones, has been charged with criminal neglect and possession of a controlled substance, and is out on $75,000 bond.
In addition to the criminal charges, Child Protective Services is reportedly investigating the situation, according to KFDM News. In the meantime, the two-year-old boy has been placed in the care of his grandmother until the investigation is complete.
Jones actually made it a point to contact KFDM to set out her side of the story, although it's debatable whether that will help or hurt her case. Defense attorneys regularly advise their clients in similar circumstances not to make uncounseled, public statements about the facts of a case, because as well intentioned as an explanation may be, it can be misunderstood and/or used against a defendant later on. This is one reason why, in high-profile criminal cases involving celebrities or sports figures, often an attorney will be hovering over their shoulder at press conferences, ready to hush their client if they cross into details about a case. At any rate, here's Jones's take on how her son got out to the street:
"I had just had a tooth pulled Monday and was given anesthesia, and I was up with my son all morning Tuesday...I laid down to take a nap while he was sleeping. He's very smart and he got up and unlocked the back door and opened it. My husband was at work. My son had barely made it around the corner."
As for the drugs:
"Someone staying in my home had left the meth," said Jones. "I'm not denying it was there. I just hadn't had the chance to do anything with it. I had a bad injury to my knee and then the dental visit and I just hadn't gotten up and moving around that good yet. I didn't just want to toss it in the garbage where my kids could get to it. It might have been there about a week. It wasn't out in the open for the children to get access to. We don't use or sell drugs."
And finally, the snakes:
"I have two, 8 foot Colombian red-tailed boas, corn snakes, king snakes. There are padlocks on the cages and the snakes are in a room by themselves. I enjoy collecting snakes. My children are well educated about them. Me and my husband are always around when the snakes are out."
That may well be so, but police aren't betting on it. One officer stated, "They could still have some snakes hidden in there because my officers really didn't want to look too closely...We didn't stick our hands in there."
- AP: Toddler found on street, meth and snakes in home
- KFDM News: Woman released on bond following drug, child endangerment charges
- Your Rights: Fifth Amendment Right Against Self-Incrimination (FindLaw)
- FindLaw Family Law Center: Child Abuse (FindLaw)
- Constitutional Protections for the Criminal Defendant (provided by Westmeyer Law Offices)
- Grandparents' Visitation and Child Custody Rights (FindLaw)
- Criminal Law Basics (FindLaw)
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