Mother accused of forgetting baby on roof of car released from jail

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Manuel Pena By Jennifer Thomas Manuel Pena By Jennifer Thomas
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- The Phoenix woman charged with aggravated DUI and child abuse after her 1-month-old baby was found abandoned in the street has been released from jail on her own recognizance and is being electronically monitored.

Police were called to the area of 45th Avenue and Cholla Street early Saturday morning after a child was found sitting in a car seat in the middle of the road.

While investigating the scene, two witnesses approached the officers and identified the child's mother mother as Catalina Clouser.

The witnesses said they had been smoking marijuana with Clouser, 19, and her boyfriend earlier in the evening at a nearby park.

Clouser and her 19-year-old boyfriend, Manuel M. Pena, reportedly left the park around 11 p.m. to go buy beer. Pena was pulled over on the way to the store and arrested for aggravated DUI after police determined he was driving impaired with the baby in the vehicle.

Upset over her boyfriend’s arrest, Clouser reportedly drove to the witnesses’ home and smoked more marijuana. 

Clouser decided to leave the house around midnight with her baby asleep in a car seat. Before driving away, Clouser apparently forgot that she had left her child sitting on the roof of her car.

"A couple was driving down the street when they saw the car seatand pulled over,"said Leilani Gerlach who lives nearby. "This poor lady was holding this baby, she was in tears, they found the baby strapped in the car seat.  We looked him over and he didn't have any cuts, bruises or bleeding so that was a big relief."

Police say Clouser realized her mistake as soon as she got home and called her friends to see if they could start looking for the child.

Clouser eventually returned to the scene as police were investigating and admitted to what had occurred. She was subsequently arrested and booked into jail.

The baby was not injured, and is in custody of Arizona Child Protective Services.

Clouser made her first court appearance over the weekend. In addition to the electronic monitoring, she also will be subjected to alcohol and drug testing and monitoring.

A status conference has been scheduled for June 15, followed by a preliminary hearing on June 20.