By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — A Lawrence woman pleaded guilty yesterday to leaving her 7-year-old nephew alone at The Mall at Rockingham Park this summer while she shopped for about four hours.
Ana Matos, 45, avoided jail time, but received a $500 fine, with $250 suspended for two years, as part of a plea agreement reached yesterday in 10th Circuit Court.
She pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge in connection with the incident July 26.
Matos was originally charged with endangering the welfare of a child after the young boy was found wandering the mall. Both charges are misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in the jail and a $1,200 fine.
Matos left the 7-year-old outside the Microsoft store shortly before 10:30 a.m. and walked off alone to go shopping, police said.
Police were called at 12:21 p.m. when the child was found alone. Mall security employees searched for a parent or guardian before calling police.
Police spotted the woman at the mall later that afternoon after reviewing store surveillance video showing the boy had been alone for several hours.
Matos, carrying three shopping bags stuffed with more than $500 worth of clothing, told police she was busy looking for her nephew when they tracked her down near the Microsoft store.
Police asked Matos why she had not notified mall security or police that the boy was missing. She was not able to provide an answer, according to Sgt. Michael Kelly.
Matos did not speak in court yesterday when appearing before Judge John Korbey. Prosecutor Jason Grosky recommended Matos be fined $500, with $250 suspended, and Korbey agreed.
Matos declined to speak following her sentencing, but her attorney, Socrates Delacruz of Lawrence, said his client was sorry for what she had done. He said Matos is a married, hard-working mother of three children who simply made a mistake.
“Ms. Matos regrets even being in this position,” Delacruz said. “It was an error of judgment.”