The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department found two small children unattended inside a vehicle, according to a police report.
Police found two young girls, three and five years old, in a parked green Ford at the Raytheon Bristol Alumni Association Park on Sunset Road in Piney Flats, Tennessee around 8 p.m. Saturday. The president of the park association told police two women, including their mother, 26-year old Heather Royston, left the girls in the car while they went down to the dock to fish. Police said two other female employees inside the park stated the children had been left inside the car since 5 p.m.
However, Royston said that’s impossible and the girls were in the car for less than an hour. "I actually found a receipt from the Food City on the Virginia side at 5:17," she said. "There's no way I was down there at five,” she said. “When I looked at the clock on the dashboard, it said 7:05 p.m.”
The police report states the women were about 40 feet from the car, sitting with their backs to the car while fishing. "They were up on the hill, under the tree, in the car with the windows down; they had their snacks and drinks and knew if they needed anything she knew to holler,” Royston said. “Next thing I know, I hear a car door behind me, turn around and the police were there.”
The officer stated the back windows of the car were half-way down, but both children were sweating profusely in the 80-degree heat. "It may be 80 degrees outside, but inside a car it's much hotter so even a few minutes is too long to leave a child inside a car,” said Leslie Earhart with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department.
Royston told police the girls were in the car because they have ADHD and she felt they were safer in the vehicle than on the dock. “They're very hyper, a five-year-old and three-year-old are curious about the water and fish,” she said. “I never thought it would lead to this. They were fine. I could hear them, I could still see them. It’s not like they were unsupervised.”
Royston was arrested and charged with child abuse and neglect. She is out on a $5,000 bond. Both girls were okay and did not need any medical attention. “You should call 911 immediately because it just takes a couple minutes for it to become a dangerous situation inside a car,” Earhart said. “These children were very lucky.”
The children were in the custody of DCS as of Monday afternoon.