Published January 13, 2015
A Hawaii couple’s 3-year-old daughter was taken away from them for 18 hours after they were arrested for forgetting to a pay for two $5 sandwiches.
"This is unreal this could happen to a family like ours," Nicole Leszczynski told Hawaii’s KHON.
The outing-turned-nightmare happened Wednesday while the family was shopping at a local Safeway.
"We walked a long way to the grocery store and I was feeling faint, dizzy, like I needed to eat something so we decided to pick up some sandwiches and eat them while we were shopping," Leszczynski told the news station.
Leszczynski, who is 30-weeks pregnant, her husband, Marcin, and daughter Zophia bought $50 worth of groceries -- but forgot about their two chicken salad sandwiches.
"It was a complete distraction, distracted parent moment," Leszczynski told KHON.
As the family left, they were stopped by store security, who asked for their receipt.
"I offered to pay, we had the cash. We just bought the groceries," Leszczynski told the station.
Instead, the expectant mother told KHON that the Safeway manager called police. They were taken to the main Honolulu police station where they were booked for fourth degree theft. Then Zophia was taken into custody by Child Protective Services.
"When they notified us that they would have to take her because we both would be arrested, I just couldn't believe it, couldn't believe this was happening, because I forgot to pay for the sandwich and that she's never been away from us this long," Leszczynski told KHON.
CPS told Hawaii News Now the department takes a child when both parents are arrested.
Zophia’s mom said she spent a sleepless night worrying about her daughter and shared the ordeal on the parenting website www.babycenter.com. Her post grabbed the attention of hundreds of outraged moms and dads.
"We didn't know where our daughter was, didn't know what the situation was, she didn't have any clothes they just took her right from the grocery store," Leszczynski told KOHN.
Zophia was returned to her parents 18-hours later.
Safeway Management issued this statement: "Safeway is aware of the incident and is working closely with the appropriate law enforcement authorities. The incident is under review but until the investigation is finalized it would be premature to comment."
A day later, Safeway issued an additional statement, saying that there may have been a mistake.
"It appears we may not have handled this matter in the best possible way and we are taking the situation seriously," the store said.
The couple says the never intended to steal the sandwich, and that they plan to argue against the charges when they appear in court in November.
"I hope no one else has to go through this," Leszczynski said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.