A Florida woman who allowed her seven-year-old son out to play alone in a nearby park is facing a charge of child neglect.
Nicole Gainey, 34, said she was “dumbfounded” to find herself in handcuffs after allowing her son visit the park half a mile from their home in the city of Port St Lucie last Saturday afternoon.
During the 10-15-minute walk to Sportsman’s Park someone at a public pool asked the youngster where his mother was. When the boy ran off, lifeguards called 911.
Police found the youngster in the park.
The arrest affidavit said: “He appeared to be playing with several other children. He appeared to be uninjured and in good health.”
The officer asked the boy if his mother knew he was outside unsupervised.
The youngster said she knew where he was and he had just spoken to her on his mobile phone, according to the affidavit.
Police took the boy home and his mother was taken into custody. She has had to post $4,000 ($2,350) bail.
The officer wrote in the arrest report that “numerous sex offenders reside in the vicinity”.
But Ms Gainey said she believed her son was old enough to go to the park alone.
“Honestly didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I was letting him go play,” she told WPTV.
The Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based civil liberties group representing Ms Gainey, said its client is a good mother who is afraid but determined to fight the charge.
The St Lucie County prosecutor’s office said there was no age limit for a child to be deemed old enough to go out unsupervised, and any incidents were handled on a case-by-case basis.