BRIDGEPORT -- A 37-year-old mother of nine was arrested Wednesday after her child was found wandering alone in a city park and she didn't realize he was missing until late the next morning, police said.
Tonya Odom, of Kelsey Street, was charged with risk of injury to a minor, a felony, after she arrived at police headquarters to report her 3-year-old son missing roughly 16 hours after another mother found him alone in an East End park and called police, said Sgt. Roberto Melendez, head of the Bridgeport Police Youth Bureau.
Police said an interview with Odom indicated that one of her older daughters, she has several in their teens and three at least 18, took the younger children to the Tisdale School playground near their home and returned, apparently without doing a head count and missing the youngest.
Fortunately, a day-care worker from Hall Neighborhood House, who was at the playground Tuesday with her own children, noticed that everyone was leaving around 7:30 p.m., "and no one was leaving with him," Melendez said.
After waiting with the child for roughly half an hour, "she finally realized the parents weren't coming back and decided to call the police," he said.
Odom was sleeping when her children returned from the park. She awoke early to take another child to a doctor's appointment and realized the tot wasn't home when she returned about 11 a.m., Melendez said. He said that, although the mother had trusted her son to the care of his siblings, she is ultimately responsible for his well-being.
The toddler was taken Tuesday night to St. Vincent's Medical Center for evaluation, and is now in the custody of the state Department of Children and Families. The DCF is investigating.
The boy was clean and well dressed, and appeared healthy, police said.
She is five months pregnant with a 10th child, police said.
"Nice kid," said Melendez, who was awoken and called in to work at 11 p.m. to try to find the child's parents. "What if somebody grabbed him? ... (Some parents) don't realize the danger. They don't remember the cries of these parents who maybe just looked away for a second ... just one second and then you never see your child again."