CHILTON COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - Chilton County sheriff’s investigators are trying to unravel the truth in a “bizarre” situation that started unraveling shortly after they conducted a welfare check on some people sleeping in a car.
Someone called police Sunday morning to ask them to look into the situation at a gas station, located in Verbena off I-65′s exit 200.
When a deputy arrived, he found a man and three kids asleep inside the vehicle, according to Assistant Chief Deputy Shane Mayfield.
The deputy asked the driver to step from the vehicle after determining there was possible drug use. The man, later identified as Michael David Howard, of Milton, Florida, sent up red flags for the deputy when he couldn’t provide the names of the kids or any information about them.
Mayfield said a search of the man and the vehicle lead to the discovery of meth and a meth pipe and he was arrested on two drug charges. It was later determined Howard has multiple out-of-state felony drug convictions.
While searching the vehicle, Mayfield said investigators found a piece of cardboard with a note on it that appeared to provide permission from the kids’ mother for Howard to transport them from Florida to their grandmother’s home in Ohio. Mayfield said none of that has been verified by the sheriff’s office, though work is continuing to find out if it’s true or false.
The Alabama Department of Human Resources took the children, ages 6, 16, and 18, into custody, Mayfield said. The assistant chief deputy said the oldest child has a mental disability, but added all three were in good condition and were “obviously relieved” to no longer be part of the situation.
Investigators spoke with the mother, Mary Magdalene Jackson, of Pensacola, Florida, but she contradicted Howard’s assertions that he was not related to the kids. Mayfield said she indicated he was their uncle.
Jackson traveled north from Florida to Chilton County Monday to speak with DHR about her children. That’s when Mayfield said deputies arrested and charged her with three counts of child torture/willful abuse.
The charges are based on a subsection of state law that covers the willful mistreatment of a child for whom a parent fails to safeguard, Mayfield said, adding that sending one’s kids across five state lines with a felonious stranger fits that description.
Mayfield said investigators determined Jackson had known the man less than a day before allegedly giving him $200 to take the kids to Ohio.
Both Jackson and Howard remain in the Chilton County Jail. Her bond is set at $45,000 while his is set at $10,750. An investigation is ongoing.