Mom Speaks Out About Neglect Charges

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - A local mom spends the night in jail after police say she let her kids play outside unsupervised. The Johnson City mother is facing felony child abuse and neglect charges.

Thursday night April Lawson let her children, 5 and 8 years old, play at the Mountainview Elementary park without an adult and that seems to be the root of the problem.

With hands folded, it's a tough lesson learned for Lawson simply standing in front of a judge. Now she's facing felony child abuse and neglect charges. In court Friday the judge explained why. "If the abused child is eight years of age or less the penalty is a class D felony," said judge Robert Lincoln.

News 5 caught up with Lawson right outside that same park. She says they live just a block and a half away, close enough to see the kids playing and here's how she describes what happened Thursday evening, "So I walked them across the street, watched them walk up the block to the park and went back inside. When the kids didn't come home I sent somebody up here to bring them home," she explained.

Johnson City Police say when Lawson realized the kids weren't there, she called 911. According to a court document News 5 picked up neighbors let Lawson's friend know the children were at a nearby home. "I had no idea that I could get in this much trouble for just walking them up to a playground and play," said Lawson.

The Department of Children's Services took the children from the home and Lawson spent the night in jail. Friends say while it was a big mistake, they hope the community doesn't judge Lawson too. "We have all made mistakes, take a step back, evaluate your own life," said Tammy Bailer.

Lawson also tells News 5 she hopes her story serves as a word of warning to other parents.

She's scheduled to be in front of a judge again on June 14.

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