A Gainesville man was arrested Tuesday after police believe that he, while intoxicated, let his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son wander off by himself from a house.
Charles Ragans, 46, was charged with child neglect, according to an Alachua County Sheriff’s Office report.
The 3-year-old boy was found walking by himself Tuesday afternoon on Northwest 39th Avenue wearing only a soiled diaper.
Police responded to a call from witnesses who saw the child screaming and crying in the middle of the road, the report said.
The witnesses said they rescued the toddler from the street and gave him clothes, but that the child couldn’t provide his name or parents’ names.
He repeatedly said, “Mommy left in a blue truck” and “At Charles’ house, we knock on door,” among other phrases, the report said.
About an hour later, Ragans came out of the home on Northwest 21st Drive and identified himself to police as the toddler’s mother’s boyfriend. He said he was responsible for watching the child but fell asleep.
Ragans smelled strongly of alcohol, and the house was strewn with beer cans, according to the report.
Ragans told police the child asked to play in the backyard while he waited for a babysitter to arrive. The backyard was dirty and filled with trash, including broken, sharp pieces of terracotta plant pots.
The arresting officer discovered that the door leading from the backyard into the house was locked from the inside, and the child was likely knocking on the door while Ragans slept inside, according to the report.
The child’s mother told police that when she left the house that morning for work, Ragans said he could watch the child until she could find a babysitter.
At 11 a.m., she called to tell Ragans that she was unable to find one. Ragans seemed alert and awake at that time, the mother told police.
But the mother also told the officer that a neighbor was visiting when she left for work and that she heard Ragans ask the neighbor for more beer.
Alachua County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Art Forgey said he’s unsure of whether the Department of Children and Family Services has gotten involved in the case yet.
The sheriff’s office handles instances of child abuse on an almost daily basis, Forgey added.
“In our policies and procedures, any time we do a child-abuse investigation, we work with the Department of Children and Family Services,” he told WUFT News. “Our deputies are trained in that and very well-versed in working those.”
The frequency of events like this has caused the office to work closely with DCF, and Forgey said he encourages Gainesville residents to be on the lookout for instances of abuse or neglect.
“I would say to anyone that suspects any type of child abuse to either call our office or call the DCF hotline so it can be investigated and checked out,” he said.
Ragans was arrested and remained at the Alachua County Jail as of today on a $50,000 bond.