Nationwide discussion over N.A. mom accused of leaving child at park

  • Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2014 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, July 17, 2014 3:24 p.m.
Harrell
Harrell

The case of a North Augusta woman arrested after leaving her daughter at a park while she went to work is sparking discussion across South Carolina – and even the rest of the country.

Debra Lynn Harrell, 46, of Weston Street, is accused of leaving her 9-year-old child at a park in North Augusta while she went to work at a nearby McDonald's.

The incident happened June 30, but in the past week, media outlets around the country have picked up on the story. In addition to local and state outlets, national outlets have picked up on it, as well, including New York magazine.

The case was even discussed Wednesday afternoon on Fox News' “The Five.” A Google search of Harrell's name returns dozens of blogs and websites where the case is being discussed, with many people taking sides over whether or not Harrell should have been arrested.

Lt. Tim Thornton, a spokesman for the North Augusta Department of Public Safety, said in a statement Wednesday that there has been “heightened interest” in the case, which has been turned over to the Second Circuit Solicitor's Office.

“Therefore, the North Augusta Department of Public Safety cannot make any further comments regarding this case,” he said, directing requests and comments to the Solicitor's Office. “Our agency does not want the case tried in the news media, but rather a court of law.”

Deputy Solicitor David Miller declined to comment on the case, citing laws that prohibit prosecutors from making “extra-judicial” comments about a case. He said the investigation is ongoing.

North Augusta Public Safety charged Harrell with unlawful conduct toward a child. She was placed in the Aiken County detention center and later released on bond.

A witness saw the 9-year-old child playing at Summerfield Park unsupervised on June 30, according to an incident report. The witness headed to work and later returned to the park, where she found the child still playing without an adult watching over her.

The witness asked the child where her parent was, and the child said her mother dropped her off at the park before she went to work, police said. The child also told the witness that she's “dropped off all the time to play at the park while her mother is at work.”

The child was asked what she eats for lunch, to which she replied food from other people, or she walks over to McDonald's at Wal-Mart, according to the report. Officers met with the child, and she told them there was no adult with her at the park.

The mother, Harrell, was then contacted by police, interviewed and confessed to abandoning the child, the report stated. She was then arrested, and the child was taken by the Department of Social Services.

Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard.

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