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An Anaheim woman was behind bars Wednesday on suspicion of leaving her screaming 4-year-old son in her car for hours while she went shopping in Santa Ana, police said.
Arica Jenee Ayala, 27, was being held on $120,000 bail, according to jail records.
Ayala drove to MainPlace Mall in downtown Santa Ana and parked her car just before 8 p.m. Tuesday, Santa Ana Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. Shoppers in a neighboring car who arrived the same time came back about a half-hour later and noticed “there’s a kid left alone yelling and screaming, so they called paramedics and us,” Bertagna said.
The boy was in a child-safety seat, and the car’s door was unlocked, Bertagna said.
“Thank God it wasn’t summer,” Bertagna said, adding the boy could have suffered weather-related injuries in hot weather.
Officers went to Ayala’s home in Anaheim to see if any other family member was available, and they also had announcements made in the shopping center about the boy, Bertagna said.
After the mall closed at 9:30 p.m., Ayala came back to the car, Bertagna said.
“She initially lied and said, ‘Oh, I left my sister with him,”‘ Bertagna alleged. “Her story didn’t pan out, and she eventually admits there was no sister.”
Ayala said she “forgot” about her son, according to Bertagna.
She was booked on suspicion of willful cruelty to a child with possible injury or death, Bertagna said.
No other family member could be found, so the boy was placed in the custody of the county, Bertagna said.
—Staff and wire reports
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