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July 23, 2014

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Mother who left child in car may be charged

The woman who came running out of a store earlier this week when she saw a man driving her car away with her 16-month-old son inside may be charged with child endangerment, a Metro official said Thursday.

Though the car was found with the baby safe about five hours later, the mother had "placed the child in a situation where he could be hurt or harmed," said Lisa Teele, supervisor of Metro's abuse and neglect division.

"This case will go forward ... and will be presented to the district attorney's office, who will make the decision on whether to press charges," she said.

But at her northwest Las Vegas home Thursday night, Maria Door and her husband, Cesar Olivas, said they had already paid the price for what they admitted was a serious mistake.

Door said she left her house Tuesday night about 6:15 in search of sandals for Edwin, who had lost a sandal last Sunday when the family went to see "Finding Nemo."

While she was out with Edwin, her husband was out with 5-year-old Brian, their other son, looking to buy a cable for their other car.

By the time she got to Vegas Shoes on Decatur Boulevard and Meadows Lane, the baby was fast asleep.

"He normally naps about that time," Door, who is from Cuauhtemoc, Mexico, said in Spanish.

But even though the baby was asleep, she planned to take him into the store -- "His feet are wide and I have to try shoes on him before buying them," the boy's mother said.

But she couldn't see if the store was open from the car and decided to park within view of the store's entrance and go check.

Door said she saw two men from the corner of her eye while she was walking toward the store, but then kept walking when they seemed to be approaching another car.

A security guard opened the door for her when she got near the store; as she stepped inside she heard tires screech.

She ran outside screaming and asked a couple in broken English and then in Spanish if they saw where the car had gone. They pointed toward Decatur.

The mother of two went back to the store, where the security guard was dialing 911.

When she heard the operator speak English, she asked if there was an operator who spoke Spanish.

"I speak English OK, but I was afraid I wouldn't understand something," Door said.

"Un momento," the operator said.

But the moment seemed like forever as the operator began the process of transferring the call to a service that Metro uses when no bilingual operators are available.

Meanwhile Door found that an employee of the store was bilingual, and the call was handled in English.

After several hours of interviews with Metro officers, the car was found by an alert convenience store employee, with the baby safe inside.

The air conditioning had been left on -- and the baby's bottle was empty.

"It seems like the thieves thought to feed the baby," Door said.

The employees at Vegas Shoes who were working Tuesday night were off on Thursday, according to another employee who would not offer his name. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., the employee said.

"We are not going to try and justify what happened," Door's husband said. "But we do want the law to know that this wasn't intentional ... and that we have already paid the price for this, in spiritual and psychological terms."

Olivas said he spent most of Tuesday night driving around the Las Vegas Valley with friends and relatives in search of his son.

"The time was eternal. You think anything could be happening to your child," he said.

If they were charged with child endangerment, he would try to show what good parents they were through the testimonies of those who knew them, he said.

Door pulled out a pair of diplomas -- one from a county program called "Nurturing Parents and Families," and another from a cooperative extension program on reading to children.

Olivas -- who works in construction and is a member of a crew building a hospital near Summerlin Parkway and I-215 -- said his wife "is a good mother who is with the children all the time."

The decision to press charges could take several weeks, Metro officials said.

Meanwhile, Teele, of the abuse and neglect division, said she hoped the case of Edwin Olivas teaches a lesson to all parents in the Las Vegas Valley.

"I hope the public understands that you cannot leave your child in a vehicle under any circumstance," she said.

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