Prosecutors: Parents went to Vegas, left kids alone

March 21, 2012 3:20:29 PM PDT
An Uptown couple is charged with child endangerment for allegedly leaving their children home alone while they went out of town.

Prosecutors say 34-year-old Shanpreta Howard and 36-year-old Antowain Johnson flew to Las Vegas, leaving their 12-year-old son and his 9-year-old sister behind in their Uptown apartment.

Last month, the 12-year-old told his teacher at the John McCutcheon Elementary School that his parents had left him alone with sister for two days. The teacher contacted authorities who found the children and asked their aunt to take care of the them until their parents returned from their trip. The parents turned themselves in when they got back to Chicago.

Chicago Public School spokesperson Robyn Ziegler said, "staff members are required to contact proper authorities when evidence of child abuse or neglect is present."

"If those are the facts indeed in this case that would be leaving the children in harm's way," said Kendall Marlowe, deputy director of the Department of Children and Family Services. "DCFS has not had previous contact with the family but based on a report we received February 24 we are now investigating allegations of neglect against both parents."

Marlowe says there is no magic age when children develop the maturity and good sense needed to stay alone.

Residents of the building where the family lives were shocked.

"It is not right," said Sade Alic, neighbor. "I am just surprised it happened in our building."

"That is not good. That is horrible, it should not be. Because in a high-rise like this anything can happen like a fire. When children are left behind it is going to be a tragedy," said Kunle Ajani, neighbor.

Illinois law defines a neglected minor in part as any child under the age of 14 whose parents or other person responsible leaves them without supervision for an unreasonable period of time.