FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – An Orlando mother is accused of child neglect after a Flagler County deputy said he noticed her newborn daughter and 1-year-old son were not secured in their car seats.
Mercedes Letoya McCaster, 29, was driving back to Orlando on Thursday after picking up her 12-year-old daughter from somewhere in Flagler County when a deputy says he saw McCaster's Nissan Altima speeding on Belle Terre Parkway. According to body camera video, the deputy said she wasn't wearing a seatbelt, which is why he pulled her over on Point Pleasant Drive.
According to the report, when the vehicle turned onto Point Pleasant Drive, the deputy saw the car seats in the back seat tip to the left, leading him to believe they were not secured.
Body camera video shows the deputy asking McCaster "What's going on with these car seats?" To which she replied, "They're strapped in."
"What is this strapped to?" he said, picking up the 1-year-old's car seat without any effort. "Absolutely nothing."
According to the report, a 3-year-old girl was sitting in the middle without a seat belt or booster seat.
In the body camera video, the deputy walked around to the other side of the car to look at the 2-week-old baby's car seat.
"She's strapped in she's not strapped to the belt," McCaster says in the video before the deputy picked up the 2-week old baby's car seat without unbuckling anything.
The deputy, clearly shocked, sighs in the body camera video, saying, “Ma’am?” as he picks up the baby girl's car seat.
The newborn baby was in a car seat that did not have a base and the baby was secured only by a chest strap which was up to the baby's neck, according to the report. The video shows both of the 1-year-old and two-week old's car seats were facing the front of the car.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children from birth to 2 years old should be placed in rear-facing car seats.
"This mannerism could and would case great bodily harm/death, if Mercedes were to even push her brakes too hard," the deputy wrote in the report.
McCaster was arrested and taken to the Flagler County Jail. She posted $2,500 bail on Thursday and was released.
She seemed to be a little nonchalant about it and hopefully, this is an eye opener for her," Flagler County Sheriff's Office Commander Gerald Dittola said.
The Florida Department of Children and Families agents have an open case with McCaster for an unrelated incident.
The children were released into McCaster's sister's care, where a DCF investigator performed a well-being check on them.
Parents can visit National Child Passenger Safety Certification sites to have their car seats checked for safety and learn how to properly install them. Find a list of Florida car seat check-up events here.
"This is no laughing matter. All those children were in danger, in jeopardy," Dittola said. "We need to take this seriously and every parent, every citizen out there needs to."