Three young children spent seven hours alone in a car in a Wal-Mart parking lot after their parents were arrested and accused of shoplifting at the store, authorities said.
According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Tosheba Hope, 30, and Gerald Moultrie, 24, were arrested about 7 p.m. Monday at the Wal-Mart, 3001 N. State Road 7, and accused of grand theft.
After being arrested, the two failed to mention that three children — ages 2, 7 and 9 — were waiting for them in their parked car, said Gina Carter, a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman. Hope is the mother of the three children; Moultrie is the father of one of them, she said.
The children were discovered about 2 a.m. Tuesday by a store employee who then searched for their parents inside the store. The children were upset and crying, but not physically hurt, Carter said.
When store employees couldn’t locate the parents inside, they alerted authorities, who then realized they had arrested the pair hours earlier, Carter said.
In a 911 recording released by the sheriff’s office Tuesday, a woman told the dispatcher that “the kids are calling for their mom.” Their voices barely audible on the recording, they are heard giving their ages to the woman who relayed the information to the dispatcher.
The 911 caller said announcements were made in the store and she “walked the store, walked the store, walked the store” in search of the mother. While reporting the abandoned children to 911, the woman offered them water, juice and chips.
On Tuesday, the children were in the care of relatives, according to Florida Department of Children and Families spokeswoman Paige Patterson-Hughes.
Hope, of Lauderhill, and Moultrie, of Miramar, were charged with grand theft, but it’s likely that they will also face child neglect charges, authorities said. The investigation is ongoing.
According to a sheriff’s arrest report, Hope and Moultrie picked up tools and vehicle accessories valued at $660 and failed to stop at a cash register to pay for them. As they left the store, a Wal-Mart employee stopped them, it said.
The two had a first-appearance court hearing Tuesday on the theft charges before Broward Judge John “Jay” Hurley. Both were released from jail without paying a bond. Attempts to reach the two by phone were unsuccessful.
Hope told the judge that she had three small children and was “probably pregnant” with another.