For nearly seven hours three small children sat in the back of a car waiting for their mother and her boyfriend to come out of a Lauderdale Lakes Walmart.
But they never came.
Instead, the pair had been arrested on charges of shoplifting, and they had failed to mention that they had kids in the car, police said.
It wasn't until a customer alerted staff that the kids were alone in the car and crying before anyone realized they were there.
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“It's extremely dangerous that the kids were left in a car with no supervision," said Broward Sheriff Office spokeswoman Gina Carter, who noted the children were 2, 7 and 9. “No one knew they were out there, no one knew where their parents were.”
According to the police report, BSO deputies responded to the store at 3001 N. State Road 7 at around 7 p.m. Monday when the store’s security reported that two people attempted to steal about $600 worth of tools and car accessories.
Arrested were: Tosheba Hope, 30, and Gerald Moultrie, 24.
Carter said the pair never mentioned kids. It wasn’t until 2 a.m. that they were spotted in the car by a passerby.
“They weren’t hurt, but they were very upset and crying when they were found,” she said.
On Tuesday, Hope told a judge during a court appearance on the theft charges that she has “three small children and I’m currently pregnant.”
The judge released Hope and Moultrie on their own recognizance and were told not to go back to Walmart. But Carter said the pair could now be facing additional child neglect charges.
Meanwhile, the Child Protective Investigation Section was called and the children were placed with caregivers.
Customers at Walmart told Miami Herald news partner CBS 4 that they were shocked by what happened.
“That’s completely irresponsible,” shopper Jessica Camacho said. “First of all you’re stealing with your kids in the car, then you don’t even tell the police that they’re in the car to begin with.”
Miami Herald news partner CBS4 contributed to this report.