ST. LOUIS – Police still want to know why a 3-year-old boy was left alone at a suburban St. Louis shopping mall over the weekend. But by Monday, the child's mother was still refusing to show up and talk with officers.
The boy was discovered by employees around 8:30 p.m. Saturday at NASCAR SpeedPark in the St. Louis Mills mall in Hazelwood, not long before the mall was to close. Mall security searched the area, seeking a parent or guardian but couldn't locate one. They notified Hazelwood police around 9:15 p.m.
The boy told police his name was "Cortez," and officers determined he was 3. But his complete identity was unknown until nearly 21 hours later.
Police circulated his picture to the media, and his aunt called authorities about 6 p.m. Sunday. The aunt verified that she, the boy's mother and a group of children had been at the mall, Hazelwood police Lt. Ken Jewson said.
Soon after that, the mother, identified as 28-year-old Shameka Taylor, phoned police.
"She asked if she would be arrested," Jewson said. Officers told her they wanted questions answered.
But by Monday morning, she still hadn't shown up, and police were searching for her.
"Our job isn't to convict anyone, or decide who gets custody, we just get into the facts," Jewson said.
But Jewson said two warrants already had been issued for Taylor's arrest prior to the incident involving her son. One warrant was for a parole violation in 2002; the other was for an alleged theft in St. Louis County.
Jewson described the boy as well-dressed and healthy. He said Cortez had been in fine spirits during his time with authorities.
Capt. Greg Hall with the Hazelwood Police Department told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that leaving the boy behind showed some "bad judgment" on the mother's part.
"I believe it was accidental in the beginning, but there comes a time when you realize the boy's not there and you should provide for the child," Hall said.
For now, the child remains in protective custody with the Children's Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services and has been placed in emergency foster care, Jewson said. Department spokeswoman Sara Anderson could not confirm that, or additional details, by law.
A court hearing will determine whether the boy should be returned to his mother's custody, police said. Jewson said the child's father told police he had been out of town and did not have custody of the boy.
A security official at the mall declined comment. Calls to NASCAR SpeedPark were not returned.