A father in an incomprehensible blur makes a terrible mistake. He drops his shoeless 2-year-old son off alongside Houston Mesa Road — and drives away. Astonishing. Frightening. Terrible.
Fortunately, a passing Good Samaritan sees the child, stops, gathering him up and takes him to Payson Regional Medical Center. A short while later, officers discover the befuddled and irresponsible father with several friends searching desperately for the child.
The man initially admits abandoning the child, then later says that in a daze from over-the-counter drugs he hallucinated that he was dropping the child off where the mother — his estranged girlfriend — could pick him up.
The Gila County Attorney’s Office initially threatened to charge him with child abuse, neglect and abandonment charges that could yield a 17-year prison term. With that enormous threat, the man accepted a plea bargain that requires a minimum sentence of 3.5 years.
Now here’s the twist. He has other children. The mother of the child he abandoned alongside the road, said he’s a good father. The children miss him. She needs his help and support. She pleaded with the court to place him on intensive probation. So did the child’s grandmother.
But the judge had accepted the plea deal — which required jail time. So off to jail he goes.
Did he make a terrible, even intolerable mistake?
No doubt about it.
Will locking him up in prison for 3.5 years serve the interests of justice — and the child he neglected?
Well — we’ve got lots of doubts about that.