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September 18, 2014

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Man who left kids in car to gamble gets probation

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Willie Culver waits for District Court Judge Elissa F. Cadish’s ruling during his sentencing hearing Monday at the Regional Justice Center. Culver was sentenced to one year of probation for child endangerment in connection with leaving his 3-month-old and 2-year-old sons in his SUV while he was gambling in a bar for two hours in May 2009.

Willie Culver sentencing

Willie Culver watches public defender Cesely Hopper while speaking on his behalf to District Court Judge Elissa F. Cadish during his sentencing hearing Monday at the Regional Justice Center.  Launch slideshow »

A Las Vegas man who left his two children alone in a car for more than an hour while he drank and gambled was sentenced today to one year of probation.

Willie Culver, 35, pleaded guilty to one count of child endangerment, a gross misdemeanor, in exchange for the state dropping a second identical count.

According to police, Culver drove to the Club Car Lounge, 3685 S. Rainbow Blvd., on May 8 and left the doors unlocked with the keys in the ignition.

The 3-month-old and 2-year-old boys were in their car seats.

A passerby reported to police at about 12:30 p.m. that one child was screaming and paramedics responded to examine the children. The outside temperature was 88 degrees, according to a police report.

Child Protective Services released the children to their mother.

Culver told police that his family was struggling financially and after he dropped his two oldest children at school, he ran some errands then decided he would gamble to try and earn some extra money.

He told police that he arrived at the bar at 11 a.m. and began playing slot machines and that he would periodically check on his children.

Culver allegedly told probation officers he justified his actions by saying that he deliberately parked near a surveillance camera knowing he could watch the vehicle on the televisions in the bar, Deputy Public Defender Cesely Hopper said. He understands how serious his actions were that day, she said.

“He knows now that that’s not sufficient supervision. He’s not minimizing that at all,” she said.

District Court Judge Elissa Cadish disregarded the prosecution’s request for a 45-day jail sentence but admonished Culver for his behavior.

“Anyone could have taken those children out of that car and you might never have seen them again,” she said.

Culver has no criminal history and he no longer drinks or gambles, Hopper said.

Culver apologized and admitted to Cadish that there was no justification for his actions.

“I love my kids,” he said. “I’m not going to do that again.”

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