Cheryl Marie Cizerle of Phoenix has been cited for endangerment for allegedly allowing her disabled foster son to tumble undetected out of her pickup last week between Phoenix and Payson.
Her foster son, she told police, must have crawled out of the back of the enclosed bed of the pickup truck she was driving.
Contrary to earlier reports, the 13-year-old boy was not Cizerle's son, but rather her foster son, and the man who was traveling with them was a family friend.
According to a report from the Gila County Sheriff's Department, Cizerle and her friend were planning to camp near Payson. When they left Phoenix Sept. 1, they packed up the back of Cizerle's pickup truck with camping gear, her two dogs and her foster son. The teen is mentally retarded and suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
"Cizerle said she had last seen (the teen) when she thought she had seen his head moving around in the back when they were north of the rest stop at the (Highway) 188 junction," Sgt. Terry Hudgens said in his report.
The woman later told police that since the teen couldn't tie his own shoes, she didn't anticipate his ability to open the tailgate from the inside of the camper shell. But officers think that is exactly what he did before he fell out of the truck onto the Beeline, which was jammed with Labor Day holiday traffic.
Several deputies from the Sheriff's Department were joined by officers from the Arizona Department of Public Service and the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Squad in the search for the teenager.
Crews searched a 24-mile section of the Beeline, from milepost 226 to 250. Just before 1 a.m., the boy was found at milepost 231.8.
"From blood sign on the roadway, he had struck in the center of the road, and crawled or walked to the east side of the road, where he climbed over the metal guardrail," Hudgens said. "He then curled up on the ground, just inside of the rail."
The boy was taken to Payson Regional Medical Center, where he was treated for numerous cuts, abrasions and a chipped bone in his elbow.
Attempts to reach Cizerle for comment were unsuccessful. She was cited for endangerment, and the matter was turned over to the Arizona Department of Economic Security for further investigation.