SANTA ANA ( — An Anaheim mom was sentenced Thursday to 60 days in jail after pleading guilty to misdemeanor child abuse and endangerment charges for leaving her 4-year-old son in her car for about two hours while she went shopping in Santa Ana.

Arica Jenee Ayala, 27, entered her plea in her first court appearance since her arrest Tuesday night after she drove to MainPlace Mall in downtown Santa Ana and parked her car, Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.

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Shoppers in a neighboring car who arrived the same time came back about a half-hour later and noticed “there’s a kid left alone yelling and screaming, so they called paramedics and us,” Bertagna said.

The boy was in a child safety seat, and the car was unlocked, Bertagna said.

“Thank God it wasn’t summer,” Bertagna said, adding the boy could have suffered weather-related injuries in hot weather.

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Officers visited Ayala’s home in Anaheim to see if any other family member was available. Officials also had announcements made in the shopping
center about the boy, Bertagna said.

After the mall closed at 9:30 p.m., Ayala came back to the car, Bertagna said.

“She initially lied and said, `Oh, I left my sister with him,”‘ Bertagna said. “Her story didn’t pan out, and she eventually admits there was
no sister.”

Ayala said she “forgot” about her son, according to Bertagna.

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No other family member could be found, so the boy was placed in the custody of the county, Bertagna said.

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