The story is confusing, and heartbreaking. A Michigan woman left a toddler alone in a car in Atlanta, Georgia, and wandered away. She was found, ten miles away, with no memory of what happened, or where she had been. Now, in the wake of these strange and confounding circumstances, the mother is facing criminal charges.
According to media sources, the 18-month-old little girl was discovered inside her mother’s silver Chrysler Pacifica in a Bank of America parking lot. The bank is located on the corner of Lee Street and Oglethorpe Road in Atlanta. Police say that the vehicle, which belongs to Hitts, has Michigan plates. CPS was contacted, and took the child into state custody
Officers reached out via social media in an effort to locate the little girl’s mother. So just few hours later, when police found 32-year-old Crystal Hitts in Riverdale, they sent out a tweet alerting their followers that she had been found “safe and sound.” But “sound” may not have been the best choice of words, given the circumstances.
According to Hitts’ family, she had been struggling with a recent bipolar disorder diagnosis. When she left Michigan, just a few days before, she was maintaining contact with family. However, the last time anyone spoke to her was on Thursday, when she spoke to an uncle in Mableton, which is located in Cobb County, Georgia.
Police say that there was a “disconnect” between the time Hitts walked away from her child in the car, and the time they discovered her hours later in Riverdale, which is about 10 miles away from where she left her daughter. Officers said that she didn’t mention having a child on the 20 minute ride back to the police station, and never once asked about her daughter.
Later, while she was being questioned by officers at headquarters, Hitts didn’t mention her daughter at all. She did, however, tell the officer that the clothing she was wearing didn’t belong to her. Officers who interviewed her say that she doesn’t remember much, and they don’t believe she’s lying about her memory loss.
However, memory loss and possible mental illness aside, the prosecutor’s office still intends to charge her. If the mother is actually experiencing a mental illness, it is truly tragic that this struggling mother may have to face criminal charges when she clearly needs is help, not incarceration.
Hitts is facing two charges, namely Child Abandonment and Reckless Conduct. Had she been charged in Michigan, Hitts would likely have been facing a Child Endangerment charge, or possibly Fourth Degree Child Abuse.
Brandy Thompson, a trial attorney at the Kronzek Firm who specializes in Family Law, says that “Mental illnesses are serious issues often misunderstood by many. If a parent is struggling with a mental illness, we need to work together with organizations like Community Mental Health (CMH) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to get these people the treatment they need to be able to appropriately care for their children and themselves. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do know that taking the children away and/or placing the parent in jail or prison doesn’t help anyone and, in many circumstances, may only exacerbate the problem.”