Custody of a 5-month-old boy found in the trunk of a car near Lauderhill may be given to the baby’s father or great-grandmother pending the outcome of a home study, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Broward juvenile dependency Judge Hope Tieman-Bristol made the ruling Wednesday morning. The baby’s mother, Breona Synclair Watkins, 19, attended the hearing in handcuffs.
Watkins was arrested early Tuesday and charged with child abuse, resisting an officer and five traffic-related offenses, including driving without a license and failure to have a child restraint, jail records show.
She is accused of having a 14-year-old boy put the baby in the trunk through an opening in the back seat of the 2005 Dodge Stratus that Watkins was driving. She later told deputies that she did it to avoid getting a ticket for failing to have a child safety seat in the car, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
Her grandmother, Laura Richardson, also attended the hearing and told reporters outside the courtroom Wednesday that the episode was a big mistake.
“She got frightened and she did what any child would do because she’s still a child,” Richardson said. “She’s a good mother but she’s still young and she just made a mistake. We all have made mistakes, I’m sure.”
About 1 a.m. Tuesday, a deputy followed Watkins after noticing a headlight was out. The deputy stopped her after about a quarter-mile near the 3100 block of West Sunrise Boulevard, according to the arrest report.
About 15 minutes into the traffic stop, a second deputy heard the baby crying in the trunk, the report stated.
Deputies found the baby lying among plastic bags, garden shears and a large, rusted tire iron. Also surrounding the baby were a used gas can and other hazardous materials. The temperature inside the trunk was significantly warmer than the air outside, deputies said.
The child has been in state foster care since then and was said to be doing well. A guardian ad litem has been appointed to represent the baby’s legal interests while relatives are interviewed for placement, DCF spokeswoman Paige Patterson-Hughes said.
“The court wants that home study completed and if that’s positive then it has to be presented to the guardian ad litem,” she said. “The next step is to have the child moved from foster care to relative care.”
The process typically takes several days.
“They try to get these done pretty quickly,” she said. “There will be supervised visitations permitted.”
The next dependency hearing was scheduled for Oct. 20.
Watkins remained in the Broward Main Jail on Wednesday on a $7,000 bond, jail records showed.