COVINGTON - The Covington Police Department has arrested a woman and charged her with four counts of cruelty to children after she allegedly left four young children unattended in a vehicle in the Wal-Mart parking lot.
The children were ultimately discovered to be two girls who are 14 months old; a 3-year-old girl; and a 5-year-old boy, and according to an incident report completed by Officer James S. Moore, the three youngest children were crying hysterically and only the infants were secured in car seats.
Moore's report stated he was patrolling the parking lot when he saw the crying children locked inside a vehicle.
"As I was parking my patrol unit, I was approached by a concerned citizen who then advised me that there were four young children locked inside the vehicle and had been there for approximately 30 to 45 minutes," Moore stated in his report.
Moore went on to say that two other witnesses came forward to state they, too, had observed the children left alone for a period of 30 to 45 minutes.
The manager of Wal-Mart came out to the parking lot to inform the officer that she was aware of the situation and had repeatedly paged the mother over the intercom, using the vehicle description and tag number, for a period of 30 minutes without receiving a response. She was preparing to notify the police when she saw Moore.
Officer Moore said he was in the parking lot for about six or seven minutes when the mother of the children, Catina Nooks, showed up and told him that after shopping inside Wal-Mart she returned to her vehicle and "secured her children inside the vehicle."
"She stated after she secured the children inside the vehicle, she left the children inside the vehicle and went back inside Wal-Mart to return a prescription drug she previously purchased," the report stated. "Ms. Nooks argued that the only reason she left the children inside the vehicle was for the fact that the babies were sleeping."
Nooks, 35, of 20 Bunker Lane, was arrested and charged with four counts of cruelty to children in the first degree.
Employees with the Newton County Department of Family and Children Services came to the scene and spoke with Nooks before she was taken to the Newton County Detention Center. The children were turned over to their grandmother.
"These children were so distressed ... (they) are going to remember this the rest of their lives, and maybe this will keep this from happening again to these kids," said CPD Detective Daniel Seals.
He said that he would remind the public as summer approaches his department gets more and more calls of this type. He stressed that while overheating was not an issue in this instance, it is a problem every year.
"You may think this is only going to take a minute, but you may get held up or you lose track of time. It only takes a small amount of time for children to overheat," he cautioned. "We don't want something horrible to happen."
Barbara Knowles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.