By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
---- — SALEM — A Lawrence woman was charged with endangering the welfare of a child after she allegedly left her 7-year-old nephew to wander alone for hours in the Mall at Rockingham Park Friday.
Ana E. Matos, 45, allegedly left the boy outside the Microsoft store just before 10:30 a.m., before shopping elsewhere long enough to fill three shopping bags with clothing, police said.
Police were called to the mall at 12:21 p.m. after the 7-year-old boy was found wandering alone. Mall security personnel had tried unsuccessfully to find the boy’s parents or guardians before calling police.
Police officers and detectives combed the mall, interviewed witnesses and studied surveillance video.
At 4:15 p.m. Sgt. Thomas Kent reviewed video from outside the Microsoft store that showed a woman with the boy at 10:27 a.m. The video showed a woman dressed in a sweater and T-shirt with an American flag.
Soon after reviewing that video, police saw the woman walking past the Microsoft store. She was identified as Matos, the boy’s aunt/guardian.
When police asked her why her nephew had been left alone for more than four hours, she told them she had been looking for him. But police noticed she was carrying three shopping bags filled with more than $500 worth of clothing, an indication she had been shopping and not searching for the child.
Police asked Matos why she hadn’t notified mall security or police that her nephew was lost.
“She had no answer,” Sgt. Michael Kelly wrote in a press release.
Matos was arrested for endangering the welfare of a child, then released on a summons. She is scheduled to be arraigned in 10th Circuit Court in Salem on Sept. 30.