BLANCHESTER, Ohio – Residents are debating whether a father should be charged with child endangering after his 8-year-old son skipped church to play.
“It’s ridiculous to me that I was arrested for this,” Jeffrey Williamson told WCPO.
He said he lost his job when the story appeared in the local paper.
It also could put him in jail for six months.
The trouble started when a bus from the Woodville Baptist Church came to pick up 8-year-old Justin and his siblings, Williamson said.
“My kids run in the house in the living room here and tell me, ‘Hey, Dad, the church van’s here. We’re leaving. We’re going on to church,’ ” Williamson said.
“I said, ‘OK.’ ”
Williamson said he didn’t know Justin didn’t get on the bus.
“He just wanted to go play in the neighborhood,” he said.
Justin ended up at the Family Dollar store on busy Route 28 about a half mile from home.
Blanchester police were called. They say Justin didn’t know where he lived, and it was only after talking to a customer that they learned his address.
“That’s definitely totally, totally untrue,” Justin’s father said. “He knows his way around this whole neighborhood right here.”
Williamson said Blanchester police showed up at his door with Justin.
“I told the cop he goes out in the neighborhood and plays every day with all the other kids,” Williamson said. “There’s a million kids around here that play. I know the parents. The parents know me.”
The officer was still at the Williamson house when the church van dropped off the other Williamson children.
“The next thing you know, he comes up to me and he says, ‘You’re under arrest.’ My kids start crying their eyes out wondering why I’m getting arrested,” Williamson said.
Williamson lost his job at McDonald’s after the story was on the front page of the paper.
He has found other work, but the experience left a bad taste in his mouth and gave his kids a lasting impression.
“Every time that we leave in our car or drive down the street or something like that, every time they see a cop in Blanchester, they freak out and say, ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, are they going to arrest you?’ ” he said.
Blanchester police chief Scott Reinbolt is on vacation and wasn’t available to talk for this story.
Justin was grounded.
His father is due in Clinton County Municipal Court on July 15.