METRO ATLANTA – An African-American woman faces felony charges after her decision to leave a toddler unattended in a van escalated when the vehicle was stolen.
Babysitter Rhonda Rivers left Myrai Robinson sleeping in the backseat of the minivan on Tuesday while she popped into a fitness center at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Georgia. She claims she was away for a couple of minutes and when she returned the vehicle was gone.
The 2010 Dodge Caravan was left running and the keys were in the ignition.
What followed was a frantic 911 call to emergency services to alert authorities that the two-year-old had disappeared. “I looked back and it was gone,” Rivers said on the call.
Police launched a massive manhunt in the surrounding areas and issued a state-wide alert. Billboards on highways across Georgia alerted drivers about the missing girl.
More than three hours later, 59-year-old Melba Williams spotted the van in a parking lot at Lithonia High School, Georgia, less than three miles from the original scene. She said she recognized the vehicle and the girl from a description on a local news report.
Shortly afterwards, the unharmed toddler was reunited with her family.
This lapse of judgment meant Rivers spent a night behind bars and the next day was up in court. She made her first appearance Wednesday night at the DeKalb County Magistrate Court and after her hearing, a visibly distraught Rivers was led to an awaiting police car.
She now faces multiple charges, including felony cruelty to children. Police are still searching for whoever who stole the van and are reviewing surveillance footage.
The 44-year-old’s arrest comes amid increasing public awareness about parents or caregivers leaving children unsupervised, especially in cars. Most advocates, police and prosecutors, warn parents never to leave babies, or young children, unattended.
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