SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — An Anaheim mother faced child-cruelty charges Wednesday after she left her 4-year-old son in an unlocked car while she shopped at a local mall, authorities said.
Arica Jenee Ayala, 27, was taken into custody Tuesday night after officers responded to a report of an unattended child inside a vehicle in a parking lot at the Main Place Mall along the 2800 block of North Main Street, according to a Santa Ana Police spokesperson.READ MORE: Angels Games Saturday And Sunday Postponed Due To Positive COVID-19 Tests On The Twins Roster
Officers found the victim sitting in a car seat “crying and screaming,” and the doors to the vehicle had been left unlocked, police said.
The child told officers his mother left him alone in the car, according to police.READ MORE: Kroger Closing Ralph's And Food 4 Less In Long Beach Saturday Over Hero Pay Law
After announcements were made by mall security over the P.A. system, officers checked the registered owner’s address in Anaheim, but were unable to locate anyone, police said.
At 9:30 p.m after the mall had closed for business, officers made contact with a female carrying a number of shopping bags who later identified herself as Ayala, police said.
Initially, police say, Ayala told officers “she had left her sister with her son and was only gone for 20 minutes” but later admitted that there was no sister and that “she forgot her son was in the back seat of the car.”MORE NEWS: LA County’s COVID Positivity Rate Hits Record Low; 600K Vaccine Doses Available Next Week
Ayala was arrested and booked on a charge of willful cruelty to a child. After failed attempts to locate the child’s father or another family member, the child was taken to Orangewood Children and Family Center in Santa Ana.