Glynn County Sheriff Neal Jump said he sympathizes with the plight of 66-year-old Helen McCloud Watkins, a grandmother who is caught up in an ongoing family custody dispute.
But when she chained herself to the front door of the Glynn County Courthouse in protest Wednesday afternoon, Jump had no choice but to arrest her, he said. McCloud spent the night Wednesday in the Glynn County Detention Center, charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass, according to court records. Watkins, who lives at Altamaha Regional Park, was still in jail late Thursday afternoon on $1,256 bond, a jail spokeswoman said.
Jump said earlier Thursday that he too was working to see that Watkins is released in a timely manner. She has no previous arrest record, Jump said. The detention center mugshot reveals a face more suited to baking goodies for a church social than spending time behind bars.
“I talked to her, and we’re in the process of getting her out,” Jump said early Thursday afternoon. “But what she did was wrong and violated the criminal rules of Georgia. I can’t look the other way. She said, I was trying to get attention for my case. Well, you just can’t do it this way.”
Watkins allegedly had been frustrated with the lack of progress in an ongoing custody dispute involving relatives, Jump said. On Wednesday around 4:10 p.m., she walked to the steps of the courthouse, then used a chain and a lock to secure “a part of her body” to the door, Jump said. After some negotiations with the sheriff’s office’s court services manager, Maj. Josh Lewis, Watkins voluntarily unlocked herself from the door, he said.
Deputies took her for a mental and physical medical clearance before booking her into the county detention center on the charge of criminal trespass, Jump said.
“Naturally, the first thing we did was have her medically checked,” Jump said. “She’s a happy lady, she was smiling this morning and joking. I’m very sympathetic to her cause, but the path she went down to protest it was wrong.”
With the courthouse reopening after the New Year’s Day holiday, there was relatively little activity taking place there, Jump said. The incident could have caused significant problems on a busier day in court.
Her release will be conditioned upon her agreement to stay out of further trouble, and to keep away from the courthouse unless she has specific reasons to be there, Jump said.
“I feel sorry for the lady, but what she did was improper,” Jump said. “I said, I understand your frustration, but I have to do what I was sworn to do.”
It marked the second arrest involving a protest at the Glynn County Courthouse is less than a year.
In early March of 2018, Brandon Matthew Harper unleashed a barrage of eggs on the main entrance of the courthouse, allegedly in frustration over a decision handed down in an earlier court case.
Harper entered into a pre-trail diversion agreement several days later on the felony charge of interference with government property, court records show.