MADISON COUNTY, Ga. — The parents of a 15-month-old girl who nearly wandered out on a highway are grateful for a Good Samaritan who helped her.
Denise Pickens and husband, Timothy, say they're thankful to Bryant Collins for finding their daughter, Emily, near the edge of the busy highway Friday a few hundred yards from their home.
"He's our angel, you know, we're thankful to him from the bottom of our hearts," Denise Pickens said Tuesday.
After the incident, Timothy Pickens was charged with neglect and his wife may soon be charged as well. The parents say the charges are unwarranted.
"We did not neglect our children; we (were) with them the whole time; we just stepped outside for a few minutes," Timothy Pickens said.
The couple said they were in their backyard bagging aluminum cans for recycling while Emily was napping in the house with her three older brothers, including 12-year-old James, who was supposed to be watching her. When they came back inside, the front door was open and Emily was gone.
The Pickenses said they panicked, searched frantically for her for about 10 minutes and then called 911, only to be told the child had been found wandering along a nearby highway.
In addition to neglect and reckless conduct, Timothy was also charged with obstruction of an officer for allegedly pushing a deputy. He regrets the push, but said he was frantic to be reunited with his daughter.
"My kids are my world and I couldn't find her and all I wanted to do was hold her, to make sure she was safe, and they wouldn't let me to that," he said.
Timothy admits he may have gotten out of line with the officer, but he and Denise do not believe they should face charges of neglect.
"She's with us 24 hours a day; she's never run off before, but we do watch her," Denise insisted.
Meanwhile, Collins has been overwhelmed by the attention he's received for his role in rescuing Emily.
Collins said he was stunned to see a baby crawling near Highway 72 last Friday. He stayed with her for two hours until authorities arrived, playing gospel music to calm the child down.
When reached at a barbershop late Tuesday, Collins said his newfound fame has been "wild."
Collins has received attention before, but for the wrong reasons. He said that he served 10 years in a federal institution for manufacturing cocaine. He says he's been clean and free for five years, and devoted to turning his life around.
The attention for his good deeds is far better than the bad.
"It's really no comparison," Collins said. "I've got children…the baby could have easily been run over – easily. That's what's important: the baby got saved."