CCSO arrests Florida woman for paying stranger to transport children
By J.R. TIDWELL / Editor
A welfare check by a Chilton County Sheriff’s Office deputy ended with a Florida man and woman behind bars thanks to a bizarre set of circumstances.
During the morning hours of Aug. 4, authorities were alerted to a parked vehicle at the Texaco just off Interstate 65 at Exit 200 in Verbena.
Four people, one adult, two teenagers and a child, were asleep in the vehicle.
Deputy Braden Davenport responded and made contact with the adult male.
According to Chief Deputy Shane Mayfield, the man, later identified as 38-year-old Michael David Howard, was showing signs of potential drug use, and things about his story seemed out of place.
Davenport searched Howard and found methamphetamine in his possession.
Howard was also found to not know the full names of the three passengers in his vehicle.
The passengers, ages 7, 16 and 18, were allegedly traveling with Howard at the behest of their mother, 40-year-old Mary Magdalene Jackson. Both Howard and Jackson are from Florida, with Milton and Pensacola addresses connected to them.
According to Mayfield, Howard said Jackson, who had only met the man within the last 12 hours, had paid him $200 to drive the three from Florida to their grandparents’ house in Ohio.
“(Howard) is a multi-convicted felon,” Mayfield said, “and the 18-year-old has a mental handicap.”
Given the circumstances, CCSO called Chilton County DHR, who have taken the teenagers and child into protective custody. The three were unharmed and clearly “relieved” to be out of the situation, according to Mayfield.
Howard has been charged with possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. He was admitted to the Chilton County Jail at 10:38 a.m. on Aug. 4.
Jackson traveled from Florida to Chilton County the next day and was arrested. She has been charged with three counts of torture/willful abuse of a child.
Mayfield said even though the children were not physically harmed, a subsection of state law that covers “willfully mistreating a child by failure to safeguard” them was invoked in the charges.
“We did not feel like sending the kids across multiple states with a stranger was taking care of them,” he said.
Mayfield also said he has never seen a case quite like this one before.
Both Howard and Jackson remained in the Chilton County Jail as of Aug. 7.
Howard has bonds totaling $10,750, while Jackson’s bonds total $45,000.
Mayfield said investigation into the case is ongoing.