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Police still looking for NC parents who abandoned newborn. Records show history of drugs.

The search continued Wednesday for the parents of a newborn who took him on the run Friday in Chapel Hill, triggering a statewide Amber Alert.

The parents gave the boy, Jaxton Brown, then 8 days old, to a probation officer in Durham about two hours after the Amber Alert was issued Monday, Chapel Hill police spokesman Alex Carrasquillo said.

The baby’s safety “was the top priority” for law enforcement, he said, when asked why the parents — Justin Lee Brown, 29, of Durham, and Destinee Ariel Cothran, 26, of Garner — weren’t taken into custody at that time.

Police have not filed any charges, as of Wednesday afternoon.

The baby is now in the custody of Child Protective Services in Orange County. The county can’t comment or provide information about the baby’s status because the case involves a minor, Orange County spokeswoman Kristin Prelipp said Wednesday.

“Orange County DSS petitions the court for temporary custody of a child when it believes the welfare of the child is at risk,” she said. “When a court grants this order, Orange County DSS works to obtain custody of the child. The court order does not specify living arrangements.”

What happened to the baby?

Jaxton was born Sunday, Feb. 18, and was last seen with his parents Friday at the Red Roof Inn on Fordham Boulevard, Chapel Hill police said Monday.

On Friday, Child Protective Services obtained a court order to take custody of the baby.

On Monday, a caller who appeared to be with the agency seeking custody of the baby contacted 911 to ask for help from the Chapel Hill Police Department, The News & Observer has reported. The person said the parents were driving to take the baby to a pediatrician’s office, according to the heavily edited 911 call released Tuesday.

But the agency representative who was following the car watched the parents drive past the pediatrician’s office.

The caller gave the 911 operator the names of the parents.

The N.C. Center for Missing Persons issued an Amber Alert around 6:45 p.m. Monday for the child.

Police said in a news release that the newborn might be in danger but didn’t say why.

ABC11, The News & Observer’s newsgathering partner, reported Monday night that a white 1997 Mercury Mystique was found outside a Big Lots store on Southwest Durham Drive.

Authorities were seen with a baby carrier and a blanket behind University Ford on nearby Witherspoon Boulevard off U.S. 15-501 in Durham, ABC11 reported.

An Amber Alert has been issued for Jaxton Brown, who is 8 days old, and is believed to be in danger. Chapel Hill Police did not say why he may be in danger.
An Amber Alert has been issued for Jaxton Brown, who is 8 days old, and is believed to be in danger. Chapel Hill Police did not say why he may be in danger.

What about the baby’s parents?

Both parents have a history of drug charges, court records showed. Cothran also received a civil summons this year from the Orange County Department of Social Services, according to a WRAL report.

The summons said “the defendant has failed or refused to adequately contribute to the support or maintenance of” her three other children, ages 6, 5 and 3, WRAL reported.

A search of court records showed Cothran is currently facing an arrest order for failing to appear in Orange County court on charges that she drove while impaired and was in possession of heroin.

Brown has a criminal history going back more than a decade, including multiple driving while impaired charges, larceny, assault with a deadly weapon, and hit and run, court records showed.

He has several pending charges, including:

Driving without a license in Alamance and Granville counties. He also faces multiple traffic violations in Granville County, including having an expired registration or vehicle tag, no insurance, and having a fictitious title or registration card

Larceny, and possession of methamphetamines, cocaine and drug paraphernalia in Alamance County

Two misdemeanor probation violations in Orange County, for misdemeanor driving while impaired convictions in Vance County

Police have described Cothran as 5 feet 3 inches tall, with brown hair and hazel eyes. Brown was described as 5 feet 8 inches tall, with brown hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information can call 911 or the Chapel Hill Police Department at 919-968-2760 (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday). Anonymous tips can be made to Chapel Hill-Carrboro-UNC Crimestoppers at 919-942-7515 or visit https://chapelhillcrimestoppers.com.

Problems calling 911 to report car

Durham resident Lorna Ziegler said she spotted the car that matched the description in the Amber Alert but struggled to make contact with law enforcement to report it.

She was near the Big Lots store when she saw the car and checked the license plate. She didn’t see anyone inside the car.

Ziegler called Durham 911 twice, but no one picked up. She tried calling the Chapel Hill Police Department, but it was after business hours when the department is closed.

She “panicked a little bit,” Ziegler said, and after trying a non-emergency Durham number, again without luck, she spotted two men walking into the Big Lots.

She flagged them down, and one of the men tried calling 911 again, she said. He got a person on his second attempt, she said.

Multiple police cars “showed up pretty fast,” Ziegler said.

“I just hope that wherever her four kids are now, they’re getting snuggled and fed and taken care of,” Ziegler said. “That’s all I’m worried about is that; I hope if they’re with a foster family or whatever, that they’re happy for now.”

Durham 911 has staffing shortage

Ziegler’s experience with 911 is not unusual for Durham, which has had significant staffing issues for a few years in its Emergency Communications Center.

When she called on Monday, she heard there were 91 calls coming into the center, which only has 36 people in its 60 call-taker, dispatcher and shift supervisor positions, according to a city report. Four of those positions were not funded this year, it said.

Most of the call center’s 20 administrative positions were filled, and there were 10 part-time positions listed.

The call center’s staff received 21,877 calls to 911 in January, the report said. The average call lasted just over two minutes, and roughly 89.5% of the calls were answered within 10 seconds, it said, up slightly from last year’s response times.

Ziegler said she understands there are staffing problems, but it’s frustrating when “every second counts.”

“Now, I saw that you’re just supposed to wait on the line for the next operator to answer,” she said. “I know they’re understaffed, and I know they’re underpaid, and I know Durham’s growing like crazy, so all those factors are stacked against the operators.”

Staff writers Mark Schultz and Jessica Banov contributed to this report.