Mother Cheryl Cooke faces charges after toddler found wandering along U.S. 1 in Fort Pierce

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — The mother of a child in soiled diapers found wandering alone along heavily traveled U.S. 1 was arrested on felony charges of marijuana possession and child neglect.

Motorists saw the child around 5:10 p.m. Saturday in south Fort Pierce and one grabbed the 3-year-old girl's hand and called 911. All the child could tell police is that her father was working and her mother was sleeping. She didn't know where she lived — in an apartment several blocks away.

The child hadn't crossed U.S. 1.

"She was right at Maple Street and U.S. 1 (in southern Fort Pierce) on a road that is one of the busiest," said Police Sgt. Dennis McWilliams. "There is a lot of traffic up and down that road where we have had people hit and car crashes."

The 21-year-old mother, Cheryl Cooke, showed up, "crying hysterically and appeared disoriented, asking for her daughter," according to a police report. She said she had fallen asleep after working the night shift and her husband was at work.

But when police followed the mother home, to the 600 block of Roselyn Avenue, "Cooke began covering an ashtray ... that contained tobacco and broken cigar wrappers," according to a police report.

And, "Inside the residence (an officer) smelled an odor of marijuana. On the living room table (the officer) noticed an opened black purse in plain view containing a clear bag of leafy substance (23.7 grams of marijuana).."

Cooke began "crying, saying 'are you going to take me to jail for this?' " the report said.

Florida Department of Children and Families was called in and gave the child to her grandmother.

Cooke is out of the St. Lucie County Jail under a $11,500 bail.