Mother of wandering toddler faces trial

August 31, 2010 5:51:45 PM PDT
A Petaluma woman whose 2-year-old daughter was found alone on a Petaluma street in June faces a trial next month on a misdemeanor child endangerment charge.

At the conclusion of a two-day preliminary hearing on Monday, Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Julie Conger held Ana Laura Rendon over for trial but reduced a felony child endangerment charge against her to a misdemeanor, ruling that the girl was placed in danger but was not likely to suffer great bodily injury or death.

Rendon, 23, then pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge and Conger set a trial date of Sept. 17.

Petaluma police arrested Rendon on suspicion of misdemeanor child endangerment after her daughter Joana was found on the corner of Oak and Kentucky streets at about 10:30 p.m. on June 20.

The girl had last been seen at Rendon's boyfriend's home on Mountain View Avenue, about a mile from the spot where she was found.

Police located and interviewed Rendon and her boyfriend, Jose Manuel Carmona Santiago, the next morning.

Rendon admitted she had been drinking tequila the previous night and told investigators she had thought her daughter was asleep in her boyfriend's sister's room, according to Petaluma police.

The Sonoma County District Attorney's Office subsequently filed a felony child endangerment charge against Rendon.

Rendon's attorney, Andy Martinez, elicited testimony during the preliminary hearing that suggested Carmona Santiago's ex-girlfriend might have played a role in Joana's disappearance.

Carmona Santiago testified his ex-girlfriend would enter his house through his bedroom window when she visited him.

She had visited his home the night of Friday, June 18, and was angry with him about their breakup, Carmona Santiago said. Joana was asleep in his bed at the time, he said.

On June 20, his sister Rosa Edith, who lives with him, phoned him to tell him his ex-girlfriend's car was seen near his house, Carmona Santiago said.

He said he went home at about 10:15 p.m. that day and spoke with Rendon outside for about 10 minutes before they went inside. He said Rendon told him her daughter was probably sleeping in Rosa Edith's room, he said.

Martinez, said he suspects the ex-girlfriend took Rendon's daughter from the house.

"We've been looking for her," Martinez said Monday.

Martinez said the toddler had traveled too far to have walked there herself.

"They knew from the beginning the child could not get there on her own," Martinez said.

He also said it was unreasonable for prosecutors to charge Rendon with a felony.

"This was way overcharged," Martinez said.

Rendon is being held in Sonoma County Jail. If she is convicted of even the misdemeanor charge, she faces deportation, Martinez said. Her daughter is staying with relatives, he said.


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