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Child left in van spurs dad's arrest

COVINGTON - The father of a 2-year-old boy was arrested Tuesday afternoon in the Kroger parking lot on U.S. Highway 278 after a passerby found the child alone in a parked van with the windows partially down.

Justin Norman, 30, of 1937 Ga. Highway 92, Fayetteville, was arrested by the Covington Police Department and charged with obstruction of a police officer and cruelty to children, according to a report by the CPD.

Officer Matthew Ralston was at Newton Plaza shopping center working a private property accident when

a male passerby approached him carrying the 2-year-old in his arms. The passerby stated that he had found the child in the van and had been trying for the past 10 minutes to locate the child's parents.

According to the police report, the temperature outside at the time was 89 degrees and the child was lethargic, his face was flushed and he appeared to be sweating profusely.

The child was given water and later began to talk and play. He and the passerby were allowed to sit in the backseat of a police patrol car in the air conditioning while police continued efforts to find the child's parents.

Ralston ran a registration check on the van, which showed it was registered to Eva Elizabeth Norman. The officer asked an employee inside Kroger to page Eva Elizabeth Norman in the store and returned to the van to wait. A short time

later, Justin Norman approached the officer and asked if there was a problem with his wife.

"Officer Ralston informed Norman that his son was left unattended inside the van for at least 10 to 15 minutes," according to the report. "Officer Ralston reminded Norman that it is 89 degrees Fahrenheit outside (ambient) and potentially over 100 degrees Fahrenheit inside the van."

Norman told the officer that he forgot his son was in the van and that he ran inside Kroger briefly to speak to his wife.

Under questioning by the officer, Norman claimed that his wife was still inside Kroger. Police tried a second time to have Mrs. Norman paged inside Kroger, but she did not respond. However, she later arrived walking from the direction of Mayfield's Hardware. She told police that her husband had dropped her off for a doctor's appointment on Elm Street about 30 minutes prior and that he later left her a voice mail asking her to walk over to Kroger.

Mrs. Norman told police that her husband had taken several prescription pills for pain earlier in the day and that may have affected his judgment.

Norman was placed under arrest and transported to the Newton County Detention Center. On the way to jail, Norman reportedly told the officer, "I do not know why my wife told you the truth about where she was because I told her to lie to you."

Ralston's report added that Norman said he lied because he was "scared that he would be arrested for driving without a license ... Norman did not express concern for his son. Norman complained that his probation would be revoked as a result of this arrest."