Sunday, March 16, 2008


Tennessee Express News Writer
* With thousands of extra people in Erin on the third Saturday of March, IRISH DAY—Houston County’s busiest day of the year—can get a little crazy.
* That’s why emergency personnel are on hand, along with the national guard, police and sheriff’s departments, and volunteer firefighters.
* While some Irish Celebrations go off without a hitch, this year was different. When passersby noticed an infant locked inside a closed vehicle, they became concerned.
* In turn, nearby National Guardsmen were called over to the locked vehicle, and a 911 call was made, getting Erin Police Officer Brian Hooper on the scene.
* According to Officer Hooper, he found a small truck located at Walnut and Spring Street surrounded by concerned citizens.
* “The baby was in the front seat sleeping with the windows up,” Officer Hooper said.
* Twenty minutes later, the owner of the truck, along with the baby’s parents had arrived, and Officer Hooper said after they each admitted they left the baby unattended, they were arrested and charged with one count each of child abuse and neglect.
* Officer Hooper said Randy Gill brought his Gator over to help move the baby to Markley Gill’s office where a physician’s assistant examined the infant.
* “The baby seemed to be fine,” Officer Hooper said, adding that the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) was called in at that point.
* Arrested and taken to the Houston County Jail to be booked were the infant’s parents.
* Officer Hooper said the couple stated they frequently went back to the vehicle to check on the baby, but he said he and others were there at least 15 to 20 minutes without anyone coming to check on the infant.
* When DCS arrived, they spoke with the couple and then returned the infant to them. Officer Hooper said DCS determined that the couple just did not comprehend the cultural differences, where sleeping infants are just not left inside locked vehicles.
* Officer Hooper, who has been with the Erin Police Department for eight years, said this is his first case of a baby being left in a car.
* “Our department will just handle the criminal aspect of the charges,” he said.
* EPD Assistant Police Chief Chad Smith was also on hand at the time of the arrests. He said the incident took place at about 10:30 in the morning.
* According to Police Chief Darrell Allison, there were several people who complained about the arrests. “We substantiated the complaint and filed charges. Now it’s up to the court to decide guilt or innocence.”
* “You just don’t knowing leave an infant locked in a vehicle. Any number of things could happen,” he said, adding that anyone who leaves an infant in an unattended vehicle can be charged with neglect.
* “It doesn’t matter how long,” he added.

Stay tuned for Part Three: Residents Rally Around Amish Couple

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