Attorney for absent mother proclaims her innocence

Saturday, October 4, 2003

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- An attorney representing the jailed mother accused of letting her 2-year-old stay alone for 19 days said Friday that she is innocent and urged a complete investigation.

Rodney Gregory, representing Dakeysha Lee, said at a news conference that both sides of the story have not come out, although he refused to elaborate on his client's side of the story.

"There is an urgent need to have everyone who has had contact, involvement and custody of the child in a variety of points, including the time Ms. Lee was not available, to be interviewed, to have this explored so we all can learn the true, full facts of what happened to this delightful, beautiful lovely young 2-year-old during the time everyone is concerned about," Gregory said.

Dakeysha Lee, 22, who was jailed Sept. 10 on unrelated charges, was arrested Monday on charges she left her 2-year-old child home alone and did not tell authorities about the child.

"I can tell you I talked with Ms. Lee. I can tell you Ms. Lee is very concerned about her child. Ms. Lee loves her child. If charges are filed, she is definitely going to plead not guilty," Gregory said.

Although Ms. Lee has been arrested by the police on the charges, formal charges have not been filed by the State Attorney's Office. Assistant State Attorney Libby Senterfitt, who has been handling the case, was not available for comment Friday.

"Ms. Lee is extremely concerned about the dynamics, all the developments and she, through all of us, has expressed her concern for a fair hearing on all matters," Gregory said.

The child's father told police he was unable to contact his estranged wife for about two weeks and learned Sunday she was in jail. He said she told him she had left the baby with a neighbor.

On Monday, Ogden Lee said he convinced managers to let him into the apartment, where he found the little girl nude, covered in ketchup and mustard, and watching a cartoon channel on television.

Police believe she had been alone for 19 days, surviving by eating ketchup and mustard and dried pasta and possibly drinking from the toilet.

Gregory said he believes police should look more closely at Ogden Lee, who has received temporary custody of his daughter, Breanna, and is seeking permanent custody.

Through family friend Lenore Jones, Ogden Lee, 33, declined comment Friday.

Isaiah Rumlin, president of the Jacksonville Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the civil rights organization also wants a complete investigation.

"Many allegations have been tossed around here, but no allegations have been substantiated," Rumlin said. "What we are not going to do is to be a participant of spectator to a 21st century witch-hunt or presume guilty upon anyone merely because she has been accused of a crime, particularly a situation that has caused considerable public attention and outrage," Rumlin said.

Gregory and Rumlin were joined by Richard P. Burton, on the national board of directors for the NAACP, and David Green, Dakeysha Lee's father from Moultrie, Ga. Both declined comment.

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