A 32-year-old Marion County, Tenn., mother faces an April court date on child neglect charges after deputies found her driving ahead of her young daughters as she made them walk miles to school on Valley View Highway.
The charges are linked to an investigation launched March 1 after Marion County sheriff's deputy Chris Ladd and another deputy responded to a call about the situation and spotted two girls with a dog "walking the fog line just south of Ketner Mill Road and a gold Cadillac parked on the shoulder, engine running, just north of Ketner Mill Road," Ladd's report states.
The mother, Lisa Marie Palmer of Chicken Dave Road near Whitwell, told deputies her daughters were being punished for missing the bus, Marion County Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett said.
There was no phone number listed on the report to reach Palmer for comment, and court officials said she doesn't have an attorney yet. She is scheduled for an initial court appearance on April 18 on charges of child neglect and driving without a license.
When they got to the area where the girls were walking, Ladd and the other officer observed Palmer and the children about 50 yards — 150 feet — apart with Palmer in the car ahead of them, the report states.
It "appeared as if she was driving ahead of the children and allowing them to walk and catch up to her vehicle and to proceed with that action until the children reached the school," Ladd states in the report.
Ladd estimated the girls already had walked about a mile and a half and still had about two more miles to go.
"Temperatures were cold, and traffic was beginning to become heavy with citizens heading to work," Ladd states. "Mrs. Palmer was in no position to reach her children safely in the event of an emergency."
At that point, Ladd cited Palmer for child neglect and began trying to arrange for the girls to get the rest of the way to school.
Palmer didn't have a valid driver's license and couldn't be allowed to drive the girls on to school. When Palmer's husband, Brandon Palmer, and his father, Douglas Palmer, arrived, officers asked for a valid driver's license from them, according to the report.
Douglas Palmer refused and began to argue with officers, using what Ladd described in the report as obscene language "with the children observing his every word and action," Ladd states. The man then accused Ladd of being "the cop that beat me up last time," and then started to take off his seat belt and get out of the car.
Ladd said Douglas Palmer then grabbed at his waist, where the officer said he saw a fixed-blade knife in a sheath. A struggle ensued and the elder Palmer was disarmed and handcuffed.
During a pat-down search and a search of the vehicle the two men were driving, the officers reportedly found drug paraphernalia in Douglas Palmer's pants pocket but no drugs. He ended up being booked on charges unrelated to the girls walking, officials said.
Burnett said the case now is being investigated by the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, as well.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BenBenton or www.facebook.com/ben.benton1 or 423-757-6569.