BLANCHESTER, Ohio - A church bus driver took the blame and says he regrets the incident that led to a dad's arrest after his 8-year-old son skipped church to play.
Jeffrey Williamson was charged with child endangering in May when his son, Justin, didn't take Eric Cook's bus to church and walked by himself to a Family Dollar store on busy Ohio 28 instead.
Jeffrey Williamson and his son, Justin
An officer who drove Justin home from the store arrested Williamson when he discovered the father didn't know where his son had been.
Cook said he has been driving children back and forth to the Woodville Baptist Church for three years.
"We care about these kids. We do everything we can for these kids," Cook said Tuesday.
When Cook drove to Williamson's house one Wednesday to pick up his four children for church, he said he realized Justin was missing.
"I asked (the others) if Justin was coming today and they said no," Cook said.
Justin's father said he thought the boy was getting in the bus.
"To the best of my knowledge, he was supposed to be at church," Williamson said.
But Williamson said he didn't go outside to make sure Justin got on the bus.
And Cook said he didn't check with Williamson before driving off.
Cook said he will make certain in the future.
"I'm going to make sure I make eye contact and have a conversation with every single parent," the driver said.
Both Cook and pastor Bill Webb say had proper procedures been followed, the incident may not have happened.
"I think if I would have gone and knocked, I think the dad would have realized that Justin wasn't on the bus," Cook said.
"This incident has brought to our attention to the fact that we need to be more careful," Webb added.
Williamson told WCPO he didn't fault Cook.
"I blame Justin," Williamson said Tuesday.
Williamson previously said he lost his job at McDonald's when the local newspaper reported his arrest on the front page.
But a McDonald's manager told WCPO Tuesday that Williamson was terminated in March – two months before the incident.
Williamson replied by saying he left in March because of child-care issues and was told he could come back when the issues were resolved.
Williamson also told WCPO that his ex-wife is in hospice with terminal cancer and the court gave him custody of their four kids.
The Clinton County prosecutor did not return a call for comment on the case.
Williamson is due in court July 15.