Students riding the school bus driven by Jami DePriest might want to take note — cops say this woman does not play. The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office says she put her own child on the side of the road on Thursday when she had had enough.
That led to the 46-year-old Fort Pierce resident being arrested on a felony charge of neglecting a child without great bodily harm. DePriest was released from jail just less than six hours later.
The Martin County School District said DePriest was hired as a school-bus driver May 8 but is now “assigned to the District Office pending the outcome of an internal professional standards investigation.”
Photos on DePriest’s Facebook page say she’s the mother of a 5-year-old daughter.
Port St. Lucie resident Daniel Alling was sitting on his porch around 6:40 p.m. Thursday. In a written statement for the sheriff’s office, he described seeing “a white vehicle pull off the side of the road on Dunbrooke Circle and a heavyset lady in a Martin County School uniform gets out of the driver’s side door while a child screamed. She then went to the passenger side of the vehicle and pulled the child out of the car,” according to the sheriff’s office.
She placed the child on the side of the road, Alling wrote, and drove out of his sight. He went down to the road and saw the car return, pull off on a connecting street, Lennard Road, and park.
“I was about 30 yards away when the white vehicle coming back (while I was filming) the heavyset lady got back out of the vehicle,” Alling wrote. “I asked the lady ‘What are you doing?’ four times and the lady said, ‘I’m teaching (child’s name redacted) a lesson.’ Then, the lady drove off and I proceeded to call 911.
“I also noticed the child in the road on Dunbrooke Circle facing a house with head down and hands crossed at the waist crying.”
Officer Alexandra Derrico wrote after watching the video, “The vehicle only responded back towards (the child) after Daniel was approximately 30 yards away to aid the child due to the extreme emotional distress endured by the toddler child.”
Responding officers used Alling’s video to estimate DePriest had driven “more than a football field away” before returning to park about 93 yards away.
Derrico also confirmed Alling’s account of the verbal exchange between Alling and DePriest.
“It’s apparent that Jami did in fact commit an intentional act that could have resulted in physical or mental injury by abandoning (the child) in the roadway and drove off leaving her unattended,” Derrico wrote. “This action was to promote an immediate fear not considered prudent or acceptable as a form of parental disciplinary action.”