Missing kids, guardian quickly reunited in mall

Local police called the state Office of Children’s Services on Tuesday after four small children were found unattended in Nugget Mall. Their guardian was arrested on unrelated charges.

Hallmark store employees called the Juneau Police Department when a small girl, estimated to be 2 to 3 years old, wearing her footie pajamas without any shoes wandered into the store without a parent.

It wasn’t the first time this had happened with the family, store manager Alexis Hildebrand said.

“I immediately knew that something was wrong,” Hildebrand said, noting that she recognized the child because similar instances with the same family have happened in the past.

She added that the child’s pajamas were not put on properly, and were twisted and bunched up with the zipper in the wrong place.

The child was also wearing a hat with a tag still on it, which she took to mean that the child had been roaming the mall by herself.

Hildebrand and employee Holly Josephson took the girl by the hand and walked around the store, then the mall, trying to locate a parent. When they couldn’t they called police.

JPD were at the scene within two minutes, according to JPD spokeswoman Cindee Brown-Mills, noting, “They were pretty close by.”

Officers rounded up the four kids, ages 2, 3, 4, and 8 — one of whom was in a stroller — and found the guardian, presumed to be their mother.

It wasn’t known how long the children were without supervision, Sgt. David Wrightson said. Wrightson said he was under the impression that the woman was the mother of the children, but he wasn’t 100 percent sure. She was, however, in charge of them at the time.

Officers discovered the woman, age 41, was wanted on an outstanding $100 JPD arrest warrant for failure to appear in court for a larceny charge. She was arrested.

Police released the name of the presumed mother, but the Empire chose not to print it to protect the identity of the children.

Children’s Services were called shortly after 1 p.m., Brown-Mills said, and the case was turned over to them.

Typically, the children are also turned over to Children’s Service “in these kinds of cases,” Wrightson said.

Phone calls to Children’s Service to ask whether the children were in their custody went unreturned on Tuesday afternoon.

Lost or missing kids usually end up at the Hallmark store in the mall because it’s known as “the fun store,” with lots of toys, according to the two employees. They said they were well- versed in how to handle the situation.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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