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Flagler woman arrested after toddler found wandering streets, deputies say

3-year-old was walking streets for about 1 hour

Tessie Clark (Image: FCSO) (WKMG 2021)

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – A Flagler County woman is accused of child neglect after a 3-year-old boy was found walking alone with a dog near a high-traffic intersection, according to the sheriff’s office.

Deputies responded to Bellaire Drive and Beechwood Lane in Palm Beach Tuesday around 1:13 p.m. after a concerned citizen called 911 reporting a lone wandering toddler with a small dog.

According to a news release from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, the 911 caller stood with the child until deputies arrived. The witness told deputies they saw the child walk “dangerously close” to a high-traffic area near Belle Terre Parkway and Bellaire Drive.

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Deputies believe the child had been walking alone in the street for at least one hour.

Authorities attempted to locate the boy’s guardian in the area and there were no reports of a missing child at the time. Deputies said they then encountered Tessie Clark, 28, walking down Beechwood Lane. She told deputies her 3-year-old son was missing.

Clark told deputies she was cleaning the house and let her son play outside in the backyard when he disappeared. Deputies responded to her home and said it smelled like “freshly burnt marijuana” and was “extremely dirty” and in “complete disarray.”

There was no indication Clark was cleaning the home, deputies said.

Deputies asked Clark how long it was between the time she let her son outside and she noticed he was missing.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s been a little bit,” she told deputies.

Clark told deputies she called her mother when she realized her son was gone. Neither woman called 911 to report a missing child, according to the arrest report.

The fenced area where the 3-year-old was playing had multiple hazards including deep holes in the ground and a trampoline. The fence was older and unstable, according to the arrest report.

“We’re very thankful to the witnesses who came forward and called us when they saw this small child alone in the street,” Sheriff Rick Staly said in a statement. “Luckily the child did not wander onto Belle Terre Parkway or we could have had a much more tragic outcome. I hope DCF is able to teach the parents proper parenting skills and how to be responsible parents to their children.”

Clark is charged with child neglect and booked into the Sheriff Perry Hall Inmate Detention Facility.

The Florida Department of Children and Families was also notified and responded to the home.