A Florida woman turned in her teenage son to police after she discovered he stole items from cars, telling InsideEdition.com that she’ll stop at nothing to make sure the boy stays out of trouble.
Lakesha Robinson, 37, was in the middle of a parent-teacher conference at her son Chris Salters' school Tuesday when she realized the 15-year old boy was playing with a cell phone she didn’t recognize.
"He doesn’t have a phone because his phone broke," she told InsideEdition.com. "I said, 'what are you doing with this phone? Whose phone is this?'"
Her son claimed that a friend gave it to him, but Robinson said she didn’t believe him and launched an investigation of her own, tracking down the true owner of the phone, who told her it had been stolen.
“He said ‘my truck was broken into last night.’ And he said they took his wallet and were using his credit card,” Robinson said.
Whoever took the man’s credit card used it at McDonald’s, Wawa and Walmart, she continued.
“I said, 'I know my son never broke into any vehicle. He was home at 9:30 going to sleep when I was going to work,” said the mother of three, who works overnight at a Wawa. “But I said, ‘call the police, do whatever you have to do. Because if my son is involved, or anybody else, they’re going to jail, because he shouldn’t be out there doing this."
She returned home, unsure of how to feel and waiting to hear what to do next, when a detective called.
“He said ‘ma’am, I appreciate everything you’ve done but your son is going to jail for burglary and theft and I said, ‘I understand.’ Now I’m breaking down,” Robinson said.
He asked that she look through her son’s property as additional cars in the Gateway community of Fort Myers had also been broken into.
She continued her sleuth work, unearthing a McDonald’s bag and two Walmart bags, one of which contained a receipt for the amount the man who had his phone and credit card stolen said was spent.
“I instantly started crying,” Robinson said. “I called [the man]. I broke down, I said, ‘I am so, so sorry, my son had something to do with your car being broken into. I called the detective and said, ‘I don’t even have to see [surveillance] video because I know my son is involved.'"
But authorities came to Robinson’s home and showed her surveillance footage from one of the stores. She was able to identify her son and her daughter was able to identify one other person allegedly involved.
Salters was charged with four counts of burglary, while Alvero Jackson and Lovens Sylfroid, both 18, face eight charges each, including burglary, theft, larceny and fraud.
Robinson said a fourth individual was involved and she identified him on surveillance footage, but he has not been charged.
The Lee County Sheriff's Office has not yet responded to a request for comment from InsideEdition.com.
“This decision was theirs. They made it. If it was me, I wouldn’t want somebody taking my things that I worked for,” Robinson said.
Her own past also informed her decision to teach her son a lesson, she said.
“I have a criminal background. He’s not going to be like I used to,” Robinson said.
Before 2007, Robinson said she spent much of her time partying, drinking, and doing and selling drugs, racking up prior convictions including petit theft and criminal mischief.
Then one day, she decided she needed to be and do better for her children, turning away from that life and not looking back.
“I lived this life and I don’t want him to live this life,” she said. “I’m not losing my son to the system or to the streets. My son isn’t going to be a statistic. If I had to do this so he does better, it’s how I’m going to do it. I’m just not allowing my son to take that path. I’m gonna stop it ahead of time. This could’ve ended way differently. Someone could’ve caught him, shot him and asked questions later."
Jackson and Sylfroid remain in Lee County Jail. They will appear in court on January 17.
Salters spent 12 hours in a juvenile assessment center, emerging at about 2 a.m. Wednesday, apologetic and regretful.
“He said ‘I’m sorry mama, thank you,” Robinson said. “He kept saying ‘I’m sorry, I apologize.’ I told him to stop, because the more he said it the more I felt I was going to cry.”
Salters is due in court on January 3. While Robinson hopes he is given house arrest (“give him a year so nobody can come around”), she said she will understand if the punishment is harsher.
“I’m preparing spiritually, but mentally... my mind is everywhere,” she said. “He needs to know what he did was wrong. I just have to get prepared. Even if they take him away for a year, I won’t be mad. I won’t regret my decision at the end of the day.”
Salters said he understood why his mother did what she did, telling InsideEdition.com that if he could go back in time, he would do things differently.
“I don’t want to see my mom cry,” he said. “I apologize for stealing.”
Robinson has received mixed reactions on her decision to use tough love, but she remains steadfast in her choice.
"They don’t know what I went through and they don’t know my story," she said. “I’m actually saving my son’s life because if I don’t do it now, nobody will do it."