CHATTANOOGA, OK (KSWO) -A heartbreaking call to a Chattanooga convenience store from a young child who said she was home alone and hungry, led to her dad's arrest.
It took a series of fortunate events for authorities to find the child, get her some food and to a safe place, as well as arresting her father in less than an hour.
The clerk who answered the 4-year-old girl's call said she thought it was just a normal order during the lunch rush, but was shocked to be talking to the child. After a few minutes of talking with her, the clerk realized it was the voice of the girl she has known for years, and has even been her babysitter. The child's response to the question of 'where her father was,' prompted the employee to call the police.
"I said, 'You're there by yourself?' And she said, 'Yep, I'm home alone,'" Leslie Henson, Hop 'N Sac clerk, said.
Henson stayed on the phone with the 4-year-old who called the Hop 'N Sac by herself to let someone know she was alone and hungry.
"I'm glad it was me. I'm glad she picked here instead of some random number. And, you know, I'm thankful," Henson said.
She stayed on the phone with the child until Chattanooga Police Chief Rob Stallcup came knocking at the door of where she lives, which is just across the street from the store. Chief Stallcup says they soon found out how the girl called the store.
Turns out, she pushed the "last call button," which called the phone line the store uses to make to-go orders.
"In a situation like that where it could have been really bad, really quick, we're just thankful it ended up the way that it did. And thanks to the community and the girls," Chief Stallcup said.
He says the child's father, Jeffrey Barnes, doesn't have a history of leaving her alone. He spoke with her about where her dad could be, and her answer was he could be sleeping.
Then, the chief and other officers went back to the house to investigate. That's where they found Barnes asleep in the closet of the home, with methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia around him.
He was arrested.
Chief Stallcup says this case hit him harder than others.
"It's really hard not to get personal when children are involved, especially one that you've known for her whole life," Chief Stallcup said.
Henson says she hopes Barnes can do better for his child, and had one thing to say to him.
"What were you thinking? That's your child. And it could have turned out a lot worse," she said.
Barnes was charged with one count of felony possession of a controlled dangerous substance Friday, but prosecutors are still determining whether they should file a child neglect charge.
The child remained with police until after her father was arrested, then she was taken in to DHS custody.