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Forsyth judge praised for saving missing toddler
Phillip Bettis
Forsyth County Magistrate Judge and county native, Phillip Bettis.

A local judge has been hailed as a hero by law enforcement after news spread that he jumped into a pool to save a missing child this past weekend.

According to Cpl. Doug Rainwater, spokesman for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, a 2-year-old boy was reported critically missing by his mother at 8:05 p.m. Sunday after he crawled out of his high chair and left the house.

Less than an hour later, after hearing that the sheriff’s office was searching for the child in the area of Campground Road, Forsyth County Magistrate Judge and local resident, Phillip Bettis, set out to search.

On a hunch, Bettis decided to search the area of an unoccupied home off of Campground Road and found the child floating unharmed in the swimming pool.

“Miraculously, the child was floating on his back, being kept afloat by a diaper’s buoyancy,” the release stated. “Without hesitation, Judge Bettis immediately dove into the pool to rescue the child.”

Searching deputies arrived in time to witness the rescue, and after being checked by emergency responders the child was found to be in a good condition.

As a lifelong resident of Forsyth County, Bettis said he believes in the power of community and that people have a duty to look after their neighbors when they need help. He added that all his praise went to emergency responders that arrived at the scene.

"We need to take care of each other when we can," he said. “I didn’t do anything anyone wouldn’t have done.”

But despite what Bettis claims, the sheriff’s office said that he saved the child’s life by hearing the call for help and acting on it. 

“Judge Bettis exemplifies a true hero in our community,” the release stated.

After investigating the scene and the incident, deputies found that the child was living in “deplorable” living conditions. Two children, including the 2-year-old boy, were removed from the home and placed into the custody of the Department of Family and Children’s Services.

Rainwater said that they believe that the boy’s mother, Danielle Cherie Wright, 25, of Norcross, was “impaired” during the incident and her alleged impairment “played a part in the child’s escape.”

Wright was arrested at the scene, charged with cruelty to children and reckless conduct, and was taken to the Forsyth County Jail. As of Wednesday afternoon, Wright was still in custody under a bond of $11,735.