A young Tennessee mother was sentenced to two years of probation for placing her baby in a freezer in a stranger’s yard earlier this year.
Brittany C. Smith, 19, of Johnson City, pleaded guilty to a charge of child neglect, according to WJHL in Johnson City. She was sentenced to probation by Washington County Judge Stacy Street.
The Johnson City Press reported in January that a witness spotted Smith carrying her infant son in the backyard of a residence the afternoon of Jan. 2 in Johnson City. The witness told Washington County deputies he saw her standing next to an old freezer that was not being used.
According to court documents obtained by the newspaper, the residents of the home went outside to see what Smith wanted and found her hiding in the crawlspace under their house. When they got her to come out, she no longer had the baby with her.
The residents began searching for the baby and found him inside the freezer, which had about an inch of standing water inside.
Deborah Presnell, one of the residents, testified at Smith’s preliminary hearing that they took both Smith and the baby inside, where Smith told them she wanted to leave the infant with them.
“I asked her, ‘You want to leave the baby here?’ and she said, ‘Yes,’” Presnell testified, according to the Press. “I said, ‘You’re gonna be back now, aren’t you?’ She said, ‘Yes.’”
Presnell said Smith, who appeared to be under the influence of something, left but came back about 12 hours later for her son. She said she and her family did not call police at first because of the state’s good Samaritan law.
According to WVLT in Knoxville, the state law allows a person to break into a locked vehicle to rescue a child or pet trapped inside.
Presnell testified that she knew Smith would likely come back for the baby once she sobered up, the Press reported.
“What’s the sense in calling 911?” Presnell told the court. “We just got a baby, we don’t have her.”
When Smith came back around 4 a.m., Presnell said, she and her family convinced Smith to call her mother.
“My son stated that baby wasn’t going nowhere,” Presnell said, according to the Press. “Either the grandma’s gotta be here or the cops are going to be here. One or the other.”
Presnell’s family ultimately called Washington County deputies, who placed the baby in protective custody, the Press said.
A deputy wrote in a probable cause affidavit that there was sufficient evidence to arrest Smith “for having placed the child inside the deep freezer, which is an act that placed the child in immediate danger of suffocation and/or drowning,” the newspaper reported.
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