Mom defends herself after child cruelty arrest

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

Ashley Bearden was arrested after her daughter was found wandering a Norcross hotel. She told Channel 2's Aaron Diamant the incident was a mistake.

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - A mother is fighting to get her daughter back after the toddler was found wandering a Norcross hotel early Monday.

After Channel 2 aired a story about Ashley Bearden’s arrest, she called investigative reporter Aaron Diamant late Thursday night saying she wanted to tell her side.

Bearden, a single mother, told Diamant she forgot to flip her hotel room door’s security latch before she and her 2-year-old daughter, Mary, went to bed at the Rite4us Motel in Norcross Sunday night.

"My daughter climbs. My daughter will surprise you,” Bearden said.

Mary surprised the hotel guests, who found her alone and crying in a hallway.

"That scares me because there are messed up people in this world who could have took her,” Bearden said.

Not knowing who Mary was, hotel workers called police, who zeroed in on Bearden's room after two hours.

"They went on for probably 30 minutes or more banging on the door with all manner of tools and their fists before they actually gained access to the room using a keycard," said Gwinnett County police Cpl. Jake Smith.

Though police had a hard time waking her up, Smith said officers did not find drugs or alcohol in the room.

"I was exhausted,” Bearden explained. “I had been somewhat sleep-deprived, because I had been working."

Bearden said she had worked several back-to-back double-shifts delivering pizzas and crashed hard from energy drinks she uses to stay awake. She called the incident a terrible mistake.

"I never put my child in harm,” Bearden said. “I look after her. She's No. 1 to me, before me."

The Georgia Department of Family and Children Services released Mary to her grandmother, but a judge has barred Bearden from having any contact with her daughter.

"This is killing me, because that's my baby girl,” Bearden said. “That's the one reason I actually do what I do today." 
Police charged Bearden with child cruelty and misdemeanor reckless conduct. She calls the reckless conduct charge reasonable and accepts responsibility for it.

Bearden has no criminal record and hopes to get her daughter back once her case goes to court.