Her four-year-old snuck out of the house while her daughter was taking online classes.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 11, 2022. It has since been updated.
Melissa Henderson is accused of criminal reckless behavior after leaving her children in the care of her eldest kid, 14-year-old Linley, after COVID closed down their childcare program in May 2020. Henderson is a single mother to five children living in Blairsville, Georgia, reports Twenty Two Words. Linley was apparently doing online studying and was unaware that her four-year-old brother, Thaddeus, had snuck out of the house. He saw a friend outside and went to play with him. Linley realized he was missing after approximately 10 to 15 minutes and located him at a friend's house down the block, per Daily Mail.
Single mother faces prison for letting her 14 year old babysit https://t.co/M4ktufPFJF— MSN (@MSN) February 10, 2022
Meanwhile, Thaddeus' friend's mother called the cops, and she was arrested in front of her children around two weeks later. Henderson faces a potential sentence of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted, per Reason Magazine. The arresting officer, Deputy Sheriff Marc Pilote's arrest report says that Thaddeus may have been abducted, ran over, or bitten by a venomous snake after leaving the house. Henderson spoke to Reason, "I almost don't have words for how low it made me feel. To truly feel in the bottom of my heart that if I'm anything, it's a good mother and everything you do is for your kids." She added, "To be stripped of that to the point where you are handcuffed in front of them."
When I was a kid, it was NORMAL for teens to babysit for mom/dad or neighbors' kids. The baby sitter messed up; but having mom arrested is not a solution; only make mom's and kids lives harder— Fix USA (@ebookbirds) February 10, 2022
Single mother faces prison for letting her 14 year old babysit https://t.co/HbCtP2hYx9
She was arrested, sent to Union County jail and her ex-husband eventually bailed her out. Her attorney, David DeLugas, has been arguing that the accusation is unlawful and that it should be dropped for the past two years. The lawyer cites a 1997 Georgia Supreme Court case that said penalizing a mother for a normal parenting decision is unlawful, per Daily Mail. DeLugas, who is working pro bono for the Henderson family, claims that Georgia's own child protection rules provide that youngsters under the age of 13 can babysit with the agreement of their parents.
DeLugas spoke to Fox News, "They claim that the same thing happened a year earlier. So you're saying a year earlier, she left her children in charge of her then 13-year-old, almost 14-year-old, and somehow two rights make a wrong." He added, "It wasn't wrong then, and it's not wrong now." He has now filed a motion to dismiss the case against Henderson. However, Union County District Attorney Jeff Langley stated that he thought the officers were behaving sensibly in their arrest because Thaddeus had previously been captured outside on his own. At the time, the Georgia Division of Family and Children's Services investigated the event and issued Henderson a warning.
According to Reason Magazine, they re-investigated her behavior after Thaddeus left the house in 2020 but found no misconduct. According to the arresting cops Linley had some level of learning deficiency making her an untrustworthy sitter. Addressing this Henderson has said that her daughter has an ADHD diagnosis but is at the top of her class with 4.5 GPA. She is the vice president of the 4-H Club and has broken varsity track records. Apart from that, she is trained in CPR and has completed the Red Cross Childcare Program.
A guilty finding would most likely not result in Henderson doing any prison time. According to Langley, Henderson just needs to stop her children from babysitting the younger ones. He says that it is for the safety of their small community. Henderson's legal fees have been covered via a GoFundMe campaign.
Cover Image Source: GoFundMe