• Mother arrested after officer finds children alone at park


    WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - A Polk County mother was arrested after police said she left her four children alone for several hours to go to a food bank.
    Ashley Richardson is facing four counts of negligent child abuse without bodily harm.
    Police said the children, ranging from  6 to 8 years old, walked almost half a mile from their home and were playing in a park Tuesday when a Winter Haven police officer noticed they were alone.
    The officer watched the children for several minutes until one waved her over in their direction. When the officer got to the children, the 8-year-old had his leg stuck in a swing designed for toddlers.
    According to a report, firefighters had to take the swing off its frame to free the boy.

    "Our officer had great concern for the safety of these children," said Chief Gary Hester. "She gave ample opportunity for an adult to come forward. For anyone to think it is OK to allow small children to walk almost a half mile alone across a heavily traveled road, not to mention left in unsafe conditions, is criminal and will not be ignored."

    A report said Richardson stated she did not think it would take so long at the food bank.

    According to the Polk County Sheriff's Office website, Richardson has an arrest record dating back to 2011.

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