The Baton Rouge woman who was arrested after leaving her 3-year-old child alone at a Wal-Mart store Friday is in need of psychiatric help but doesn’t belong in jail, according to the grandmother who has temporary custody of four of her other children.
The grandmother, Gale N. Edwards, said 32-year-old Chentra Lynette Washington, who remained in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on Saturday, has struggled with mental illness for a while and has sought treatment for it previously.
Edwards said Washington is mother to one girl and five boys, one of whom Washington left at the store while she went to a man’s apartment to have sex, according to the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office report.
When Washington returned to the store seven hours later, deputies arrested her on a count of child desertion. Washington told authorities she hoped someone would find her son and take better care of him than she could, the report says.
Edwards, who said she considers Washington a friend, said Washington recently had undergone a psychiatric evaluation, which prompted Edwards to file for custody of several of the children.
Edwards, who is the grandmother to four of Washington’s children by Markeith Franklin, filed a petition in court for temporary custody of the three boys and one girl Washington and her son bore together.
“She was kind of stressed out,” Edwards said. “I just took custody until she gets herself together and gets on medication. I think she needs some mental help. I’d rather have them with me than have them in the system. I don’t want them to go into foster care.”
Until she filed the petition on March 9, three of the children were living with Washington’s sister, though there was no court order in place for custody at the time, according to the petition.
In the petition she filed, Edwards says Washington has abused the children both verbally and physically, kicking them out of the house for weeks at a time.
But Edwards writes in the petition that she would allow the children’s parents to visit whenever they please if the judges grant her sole custody.
Edwards said in an interview Saturday that she doesn’t want to see Washington behind bars.
“I hope they can send (Washington) to get some psychiatric help,” Edwards said. “Jail is not the place for her.”
Washington and Franklin were never married and are no longer in a relationship, Edwards said.
Edwards, who also resides in Baton Rouge, will go back to court in May to try to obtain permanent custody of the four children.
Washington’s oldest and youngest sons do not share the same father with the others, though.
Washington’s oldest son has been living with Washington’s uncle, Edwards said. She said she believes Washington was living alone with her youngest boy, who was left Friday at a Wal-Mart.
Edwards said she was surprised to hear Washington had left her youngest child behind, adding that he was one of her favorites.
The child is now in the custody of state Department of Children and Family Services, agency spokeswoman Catherine Heitman said Saturday.
“The child is safe in our care,” Heitman said.