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I-Team: Neighbor: "I feel like Jayla has been failed"

A neighbor called 911 when a disabled child showed up to her home unclothed, but the deputy failed to report it to DHR.

Posted: Nov. 29, 2018 3:39 PM
Updated: Nov. 29, 2018 4:18 PM

The Lawrence County Sheriff's Office admits one of its deputies failed to notify the Department of Human Resources after doing a welfare check on a child that's now dead.

On Thanksgiving morning, deputies received a call from a neighbor about 12-year-old Jayla Sutton. The neighbor told them the child walked to her home with no clothes on. The deputy who went to do the welfare check did not call DHR.

Hours later the visually impaired and special needs child was killed on Highway 157.

Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Mitchell said he plans to meet with the deputy to find out why he didn't notify DHR when Jayla walked away from her home the first time.

WAAY 31 spoke with the neighbor who called 911. She wants to remain anonymous because of fears for speaking out.

"Jayla came walking around the corner of my house," said the neighbor. "She didn't have any clothes on, and she had a piece of bread wadded up in her hand."

This neighbor said she couldn't communicate with Jayla because of her disabilities, but she tried her best to keep her out of the road and in a safe place while she called 911.

"About 35 to 45 minutes later, somebody came out. A guy came out and got her from me in the middle of the road," said the neighbor. She said the man who got Jayla is involved with her mother. "About 2 minutes later, the sheriff's deputy pulled up and said he was gonna talk to them and report it to DHR."

The deputy never reported the incident to DHR, and Jayla was left at her mother's home. Friday around 1 a.m., Jayla had walked away again, but this time she walked to Highway 157, miles away from her home. This is where she was hit and killed by a pick-up truck.

"I feel like Jayla has been failed by DHR. I feel like the sheriff's department has failed, and the community as a whole has failed because of other children that are in situations like this," said the neighbor. "I was devastated that this child was left in this environment and no precautions taken."

This same neighbor also said Jayla walked to her home unclothed last year around Christmas time at about 2 a.m. The neighbor said she called 911 then too. WAAY 31 is working with the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office to verify this was not the first time they were called to that area because Jayla had gotten out.

Mitchell said he is looking to see exactly how many times deputies have been to Jayla's home in the last couple of years. It's unclear if the deputy who failed to report this latest incident to DHR will get in trouble.

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