Mom accused of driving off with baby on car roof freedPosted: Updated:
A Valley mother who was arrested early Saturday for allegedly leaving her baby in a car seat on top of the vehicle roof and then driving off has been freed from jail.
Catalina Clouser, 19, admitted to the negligence and was arrested and booked into jail for one count of aggravated DUI and one count of child abuse.
She was released on Saturday, but is under electronic monitoring, according Maricopa County Superior Court.
A preliminary hearing has been set for June 20.
Phoenix Police Officer James Holmes said officers responded to 45th Avenue and Cholla after a baby had been found by witnesses strapped in a child safety seat and laying in the middle of the intersection about 12:45 a.m. Saturday.
"The baby was all nice and tucked in and nothing was wrong with him, thank goodness," said Leilani Gerlach, a neighbor who found the infant.
The 5-week-old infant was taken to a local hospital and found to be uninjured. Two other witnesses, identified as friends of Clouser and her boyfriend, Manuel M. Pena, also 19, arrived on foot and began speaking with officers.
The witnesses told officers the child was Clouser's, Holmes said. While the officers were interviewing the witnesses, Clouser arrived at the intersection, driving a 2000 Ford Focus.
Officials said the investigation revealed that the witnesses, the suspect and her boyfriend, who is the baby's father, had smoked marijuana earlier in the evening at a nearby park. Pena, and Clouser left with their baby to buy beer around 10:30 p.m. Friday.
Pena was stopped by Phoenix officers and arrested for aggravated DUI for driving with the baby in the vehicle. Police said Pena had never been issued a driver's license.
Police drove Clouser and the baby to Pena's house near 12th Street and Camelback Road.
Officers said Clouser was upset over the arrest of her boyfriend so she got in her car and drove to the home of the witnesses in the area of 45th Avenue and Cholla. There, the suspect and her friends admittedly smoked one or two more bowls of marijuana, Holmes said.
Around midnight, according to the witnesses, Clouser left the home with the baby, who had been asleep in a child safety seat.
According to authorities, it appears Clouser put the baby on the roof of her car and drove off, forgetting he was still on the roof. When she arrived home some 12 miles away, Clouser found the baby was not in, or on, the car. The woman then realized her mistake and called her friends, asking if they could start checking the route she drove as she feared her baby had fallen from the car.
"We are extremely happy that for the baby this turned out well and that baby is going to be OK," Holmes said.
The baby is in the custody of the Arizona Child Protective Services.
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