What began as a party with heavy tequila drinking may lead to a legally-enforced parting of the ways for the woman and her daughter. It was the opposite of a missing child case; for most of the night and part of the morning, police were looking for a missing parent.
When 23-year-old Laura Rendon left the Petaluma Police Department en route to the Sonoma County jail Monday afternoon, officers say she was still intoxicated. Facing charges of misdemeanor child endangerment, it may be quite a while until she sees her 2-year-old daughter Joana.
"She can't explain how the child wound up where we found her," Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons said.
Around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, Petaluma police found the little girl standing on a street corner, 1.25 miles away from her mother's boyfriend's house. Her identity and the whereabouts of her parents remained a mystery most of the night. Monday morning, police canvassed the neighborhood for clues.
Finally, a relative saw the girl's picture on the morning news and led police to the mother. She still did not know her child had gone missing.
"She told me she was drinking alcohol, she was there with her boyfriend, went out, did not see the child, assumed it was in another room and then went to sleep," Lyons said.
As the morning wore on, more relatives trickled in. Sylvia Sosa is the baby's father's sister. He is in Mexico. She said Rendon has been in this country for four years and loves his daughter.
"She's a really good mother. I don't know what happened," Sosa said.
Neither do police. At first they thought the little girl wandered from the house, but based on the terrain, and the fact that her feet were clean, they have ruled that out.
"For a child to go a mile and a half is bizarre to us. Most likely, someone dropped her off. Again, she is still intoxicated. Maybe after the alcohol we will know what happened," Lyons said.
The girl remains in the care of Sonoma County Child Protective Services.