North Augusta Mother Charged With Unlawful Conduct Towards A Child



North Augusta Mother Charged With Unlawful Conduct Towards A Child

A North Augusta mother is in jail after witnesses say she left her nine-year-old daughter at a nearby park, for hours at a time, more than once.
The mother, Debra Harrell has been booked for unlawful conduct towards a child.
The incident report goes into great detail, even saying the mother confessed to leaving her nine-year-old daughter at a park while she went to work.

The little girl is fine, but some say an area the mother thought was safe could have turned dangerous.
It’s an afternoon of fun in the water at Summerfield Park in North Augusta, but investigators say it wasn’t enjoyable for one little girl.

Public Safety investigators say 46-year-old Debra Harrell confessed to leaving her nine-year-old daughter alone in the park for several house while she went to work.
“I understand the mom may have been in a difficult situation, not having someone to watch the child, but at the same time, you’ve got to find somebody,” said Lesa Lamback, who enjoys the park with her family.

Police say Harrell’s daughter told a witness that her mother would drop her off all the time to play at the park while Harrell was at work.
According to the incident report, the 9-year-old little girl says she would come to the McDonald’s inside a Walmart for lunch, which is about a mile and a half walk from the park where she was found.

“Some people may look at it as a babysitter,” said Tonya Cullum.
Cullum works at Sara’s Childcare and Preschool.
She says they found that during the summer months, their attendance numbers go down.

Cullum said, “the parents can’t afford to keep them in there. They have to keep in during school time because we pick them up at school, make sure they got a safe place, but during the summertime, it’s like find some family, grandparents or even let them stay home by themselves.”
Harrell’s daughter is okay, but some say things could have been worse.
Cullum said, “what if a man would have came and just snatched her because you have all kinds of trucks that come up in here so you really don’t know.”

Lamback said, “you cannot just leave your child alone at a public place, especially. This day and time, you never know who’s around. Good, bad, it’s just not safe.”
The girl is in the custody of the Department of Social Services.

Somebody did snatch her – CPS. I’ve seen other stories similar to this, in one case a neighbor got annoyed with kids riding their Big Wheels up and down the sidewalk and called the cops who arrested the mother because she wasn’t watching them the whole time.

My whole childhood must have been illegal, I went to the park or friends or the library or bike riding.

PS – you notice the go-to person for the story is a day-care provider? Gee, she doesn’t have a vested interest in wanting kids supervised at all times.


I feel the same that you do. At nine years old, she can safely walk to the park and play. She had a cell phone from her mother. The consensus from busy bodies in the park was she should have sat at her mother’s work all day.

So it’s REALLY the advice of other parents an active 9 year old girl should sit inside a McDonald’s instead of play at a park?? Can we think about that for a second? :rolleyes:

From the newspaper article I read (different than the one posted) it was not such a long walk, I read about a mile. And that it was a reasonably pleasant, well attended suburban playground. For me, I’m ok with it. If she’s a ten minute walk from her mom, has a phone, can play, walk back and forth…sounds like a good summer, really.


When I was nine years old, even though my mother (and most of the others) was at home, I and all my peers were expected to be outdoors and getting fresh air and exercise. I would imagine that this was also an opportunity for learning by being free to use our imagination. In fact, the stupid kids who told their mothers that they were bored were given things to do!!! Cleaning the toilet… etc.

Certainly, one came home for lunch and alerted our Mothers if our location was going to drastically change and understood not to go with strangers.


At that age, I would be gone for 10 to 12 hours at a time.
And I didn’t have a park to play in. Just a bunch of streets and a bike.
This before cell phones.

My mother would only specify to be home at sundown.

Miraculous that I survived.


Yup. I remember being on vacation at 10 years old in Bend Oregon, meeting a little girl on the street, and walking all the way into town, following the river, spending all day out with her, and wandering back to my married sister’s house at dinner time. My parents thought it was nice I made a friend. Went about 8 miles each way. Walking. Couple of thousand miles from home.
It’s just not a good idea anymore. Those days are long long gone. Predators are everywhere. Perhaps they were there all along…:shrug:
Our guardian angels worked overtime, eh?


My siblings and I spent our summers outdoors as well. The park was the most supervised place we went as there was usually some mothers there with little kids. By the time I was nine, I went hiking on my own, swimming on my own, walking in the creek, visiting friends in other neighborhoods, exploring other people’s private property, etc. I think the last time I had a “babysitter” during the summer was when I was ten, and that was only because we had a newborn in the house. On the other hand, the places I went were all within walking distance of my house, and I knew which neighbors to call in case of an emergency. It isn’t quite the same as being left off at a playground for the whole day, with nowhere to go inside. I don’t know if I agree with this mother’s parenting choice, but having CPS take the little girl was waaaaay too extreme.


with sex offenders out there (and many not kept in jail but allowed to live among us!) and people who kidnap and rape/murder children (criminals) I would never leave a 9 year at a park by herself. NEVER.

I have a niece who is ten. She hangs out with her friends, but I doubt she would ever go to the park by herself. Pretty sure my 7 year old nephew would never do that either. Neither has a cell phone.

it may have been safe 30 years ago, but its NOT safe today.


There is a difference between playing outside and doing that all summer where one can go home easily and if needed than leaving a child at this age unattended while one works without the child having the ability to go home if needed. This is child endangerment and that is why the mom was charged. One can wish all they want for the “good old days” where children could be outdoors and roam the world but now it is a different ball game and to leave a child this young alone outside while they work I’m guessing 8 hours is not such a wise choice. When newly married and my husband was taking master level classes, I drove him to Detroit and then waited outside working on paper work etc. One class had a single mom with a very young girl. While in class, she left her daughter in the hall to wander around. I felt bad for the girl and figured the mom didn’t have any other options to take the class. I ended up watching her and fortunate for this girl, it was someone like myself that was a compassionate adult. But really this is down town Detroit in the evenging and again not a wise choice. I guess I disagree with a number of the posts here and I understand totally some parents are in a real tough spot with work and classes etc. I guess I think if possible, why didn’t the mom leave the girl alone at home.


About that…

I did a google map search of the places I went at that age regularly.
I never realized it, but at any given time I was several miles from home.

I suppose my mother would have had a fit if she realized the McDonalds my friends and I would meet at was nearly 10 miles from home.

But then, the restriction that I was not allowed to cross the interstate does seem to indicate my mother knew I had a pretty long range.


agree 100%



My son spent most of his summers outside playing with friends.

BUT, he was close to home. And I could go outside and check on him.

That is vastly different than playing at a playground, away from home and without a parent.


Wow so now all latch key kids are abused? Seriously yes she should have left her at home if the girlwas mature enough to perhaps make herself a simple lunch and had knowledge of fire safety and knew not to open doors to strangers but the park? Arent there day camps during the summer boys and girls clubs anymore? i was left at home at age nine even got up and got on the bus no problems but i was at home i was never more than a mile tops from my house fishing in the creek mostly but never at a mcdonalds or park alone my parents would have tanned my hide if they caught me there since i was born in the late 80s by 9 the world was already collapsing. this mother should take parenting classes and leave her daughter somewhere safe like her home or a summer program!


Thank you all for sharing this. I would have read that article completely different without everyone’s viewpoints. I forgot that I was also this child! That there were times that I was left alone, but it was not dangerous…

It’s getting to be very strange the state’s requirements for raising children today.


A child at the park today is in less danger today than in the 80’s or 90’s when it was still common to let children roam the streets until sundown.

Crime is lower today than it has been in decades.

Sex offenders also have the lowest recidivism rates compared to other criminals. Stranger danger is also over estimated. It is much more likely that the perpetrator of a crime against a child will be someone known and trusted by the victim, in 93% of the cases the perp was known to the victim. If a child has a crime committed against them it is much more likely that it will be a trusted uncle, brother, priest, or friend who has carefully insinuated himself into the child’s life.


Just ran across this blog, Free Range Kids which deals with a lot of these issues. Scroll down there’s a link to an “expert” who says kids should never go out unsupervised until age eleven.


Well, if people want a real eye-opener…try going out to the Sex offender registry for your state.
We have one online here (GBI) that will open up a map according to your neighborhood.
We live in what’s called a really good neighborhood, and I was horrified to see that in and around our subdivision there were over 100 residents that had some kind of sex charge on their record.
May God have mercy.


There are so many people on the list because the system is watered down with people who really don’t belong there. It is ridiculous that a 25 year old having sex with a 17 year old can result in lifetime registration. Cases like that really diminish the effectiveness of the registry because it doesn’t contain any information on anyone who is a special threat to children.


Well, it IS true that they don’t specify what the charges are…


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