MADISON COUNTY, GA -- The parents of a 15-month-old girl who nearly wandered out on a Madison County highway are grateful for a Good Samaritan who helped her.
Denise Pickens and husband, Timothy, say they're thankful to Bryant Collins for finding their daughter, Emily, near the edge of the busy highway last Friday a few hundred yards from their home.
"He's our angel, you know, we're thankful to him from the bottom of our hearts," Denise Pickens said on Tuesday.
But that's just one reason they called 11Alive. They also want to clear their names after Timothy was charged with neglect and Denise may soon be as well.
"We did not neglect our children; we [were] with them the whole time; we just stepped outside for a few minutes," Timothy Pickens told 11Alive News.
The Pickens said they were in their backyard bagging aluminum cans for recycling while Emily was napping in the house with her three older brothers, including 12-year-old James, who was supposed to be watching her. When they came back inside, the front door was open and Emily was gone.
The Pickens said they panicked, searched frantically for her for about 10 minutes and then called 911, only to be told the child had been found wandering along a nearby highway.
In addition to neglect and reckless conduct, Timothy was also charged with obstruction of an officer for allegedly pushing a deputy. He regrets the push, but said he was frantic to be reunited with his daughter.
"My kids are my world and I couldn't find her and all I wanted to do was hold her, to make sure she was safe, and they wouldn't let me to that," he told 11Alive.
Timothy admits he may have gotten out of line with the officer, but he and Denise do not believe they should face charges of neglect.
"She's with us 24 hours a day; she's never run off before, but we do watch her," Denise insisted.
Denise Pickens said she's been told she may have to turn herself in soon on neglect charges as well.