Nicole Gainey was arrested and charged with child neglect Saturday after she allowed her 7-year-old boy to walk unaccompanied to a local park. The 34-year-old mother was shocked by her arrest and the Port St. Lucie resident told WPTV yesterday that she was "totally dumbfounded by the whole situation." The Florida resident was released on Saturday after posting a $3,750 bond.
An arrest affidavit regarding the case revealed that lifeguards noticed the little boy sitting alone outside the pool area Saturday afternoon. They reportedly had seen him around the pool unsupervised on about five previous occasions. Concerned about the boy's safety, the lifeguards notified police of the situation.
Police were able to locate the boy, who had left the pool area by the time they arrived and was in a park playground playing with other children. He had a cellphone around his neck. They questioned the boy about the whereabouts of his parents and he told them that his mom gives him the phone and allows him to go to the park by himself.
"They said 'where does your mom live," 7-year-old Dominic told the news station. Police took him home and then took his mother into custody on charges of child neglect.
Gainey insisted that she did nothing wrong and she ensured the arresting officers that the boy was in no danger because the park is only half a mile from their home and it only takes her son between 10 to 15 minutes to get there.
“Honestly didn’t think I was doing anything wrong,” Gainey said. “I was letting him go play.”Dominic was playing when Port St. Lucie Police pulled up. The officer explained to Gainey that letting her child walk to the park alone can be seen as child neglect due to fact that there are several sex offenders in the vicinity.
According to the State Attorney's Office, there is no law that states the age a child has to be before they can go somewhere without adult supervision. It's done on a case-by-case basis.
Although Gainey plans to fight the felony charge, she told reporters that she won't let Dominic go to the park alone anymore due to fear of her being arrested again.