Mother accused of leaving five children in motel pleads not guilty

Ben Wright

Lythea Sharay Smith
Lythea Sharay Smith

-A Columbus woman accused of leaving her five young children alone Wednesday in a Victory Drive motel room with soiled diapers and feces pleaded not guilty Friday to five counts of cruelty to children second degree.

 Lythea Smith, 24, was ordered held at the Muscogee County Jail on bonds totaling $12,500 during a 2 p.m. hearing in Recorder’s Court. Judge Mary Buckner bound all charges over to Muscogee Superior Court.

Susan Shelton, a Columbus police detective with the Special Victim’s Unit, said police were called to the Columbus Inn at 3170 Victory Drive at 12:20 p.m. Wednesday to check on children left alone. Inside room No. 122 at the motel, police found a 4-month-old infant, and other children ages 1, 3, 4 and 5. Three of the younger children were still in diapers.

 A housekeeper heard a baby crying in the room before the manager called police. Shelton told the judge the children were naked and covered in feces. The bed linen was soiled with urine and feces. No food was found inside the room where two baby bottles were found.

 Shelton said officers went to a nearby store to buy blankets and diapers for the children.

 While police were on the scene, a woman arrived in a pickup truck that picked her up from Cusseta Road location.

During an interview with police, Shelton said Smith admitted to having six children but she only has custody of five. A cousin has the oldest child.

 Smith also told police the children had been at the hotel for two weeks after they were evicted. The room was registered to a friend from North Carolina.

Before leaving the motel, Smith said she left the child with a friend. A witness near the room said the woman asked him to keep an eye on her door.

The woman was represented by public defender Charles Lykins, who asked Shelton how Smith cared for the children. “She does hair on the side to get money,” the detective said.

Lykins then asked Smith how she took care of her children. Smith testified that the children would take off their diapers. No food was in the room because the refrigerator was too small.

Smith said she would get up at 6 a.m. every morning to get free breakfast for the children at the motel. “People at the motel know me very well,” she said.