Two adults were arrested Thursday after a deputy caught them smoking methamphetamine in their car, while two young children in their care played on the side of a busy highway.

Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said dispatch received a call Thursday morning from a passer-by who spotted two children playing near a roadside park on U.S. Highway 377. Deputy Jimmy Jackson responded to the call, but did not initially see the children when he arrived at the scene. He did, however, spot a single car sitting in the parking lot of the roadside park.

“When Deputy Jackson approached the vehicle, he looked inside the window and saw two adults - a man and a woman - smoking meth,” Bryant said. “When he knocked on their window, he said their eyes got real big. They were completely surprised he was there.”

Soon after, the deputy found the two children, ages six and seven, playing about 200 yards away from the car on the side of the highway.

He then arrested Mary Ann Gober, 26, of Mineral Wells, and Bradley Glynn Barnhart, 26, of Brownwood.

Bryant said he believes the children belong to Gober and that the family “has been living out of their car for a while.”

“It’s a really bad situation,” Bryant said. “The children were filthy and both of them appeared to have a severe cold. Neither child was dressed in warm clothing. One of the kids was wearing an adult-size jacket.”

Bryant said the children told authorities they have never been enrolled in school. The children were placed in the custody of Child Protective Services.

Gober and Barnhart remain incarcerated in the Erath County Jail. They were both charged with two counts of endangering a child, with bond set at $30,000 for each count; possession of a controlled substance in penalty group 1, $10,000 bond; and possession of marijuana, $1,500 bond.

Sara Vanden Berge covers courts, law enforcement, and business and political issues for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at sara.vandenberge@empiretribune.com. Her work number is 968-2379, ext. 240.