March 12, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---A Wrens woman accused of leaving a young boy alone in a car has bonded out of jail. Deputies arrested Audrey Velasco around 4:50 yesterday evening in the Augusta Mall parking lot.
We hear warnings all the time about the dangers of leaving small children in vehicles. What you may not know is how the law applies. We have information that may surprise you.
It isn't necessarily how old the child is...it's how mature the child is.
In this case, investigators say the nine-year-old could have been in danger during the hour he spent alone.
The young boy's great aunt left him behind as she and two older children walked inside to buy shoes, according to the report Sgt. Robert Cross filed after leaving the scene.
"You should never leave a child unattended anywhere...and that's what she did," Sgt. Cross told News 12.
Sgt. Cross says a mall security officer patrolling the lot found Tiriq Collins alone in the back seat. 45 minutes later, they found Audrey Velasco and the other children inside.
Tiriq's mother Tanya says her aunt didn't do anything wrong.
"That was his decision, it came out of his mouth," Tanya said. "He did not want to go into the mall. He wanted to stay in the car and color."
But the law says he should have been supervised.
Deputies say even if you can still see the child, the second you step away, you're leaving the child unattended.
The law defines "child" as anyone under 17. Sgt. Cross says they generally write up a report when the child is under 13, and they make an arrest when that child does not have the maturity to be alone.
"He had no concept of what 911 was or anything like that when I asked him who he'd call or what phone number he'd dial for emergency to get police to help him," Sgt. Cross said.
Tiriq's mother says her son was never in any danger.
"My aunt would never inflict or do anything wrong, harm, or anything to a child," Tanya said.
But Sgt. Cross says better safe than sorry: "It just takes a few seconds for something to happen."
Velasco bonded out around midnight. She's being charged with misdemeanor deprivation of a minor.
Each case is up to the description of the individual officer and whether that person feels the child can handle being alone. Generally, age 13 is the cutoff.
Cases like this that end with the injury or death of the child are felonies.