JPD: Mom blames flat tire for leaving child home alone for hours

JPD: Mom blames flat tire for leaving child home alone for hours

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A Region 8 mom accused of abandoning her young son for hours told police a flat tire was to blame for her tardiness.

Jonesboro police cited Tunika Cooper, 37, with third-degree child endangerment.

According to the initial incident report, Officer Jacob Daffron responded to a welfare check in the 400-block of Melrose Street around 2 a.m. Wednesday.

The property manager told Daffron she found Cooper's 10-year-old son outside his apartment around 10 p.m. Tuesday.

She said the boy said his mother had gone to Memphis for a doctor's appointment, then asked if she knew his mother's phone number.

The boy reportedly said he had been at home since 3 p.m. when he got out of school.

He then told her that the lights were out.

When the manager checked the meter, she found the power had been turned off, the report stated.

The boy reportedly said he was "not scared, but that it was really dark."

The manager said she managed to contact Cooper on her cell phone. According to the report, Cooper claimed she had a flat tire and a friend was coming to help her.

That was at 11 p.m.

After waiting for nearly three hours for Cooper to come home, the manager called police.

After speaking with the manager, Daffron tried to contact Cooper on her cell phone.

The call reportedly went straight to voicemail.

He then called a Department of Children and Family Services representative who came to the scene.

While speaking with the property manager, Daffron learned a younger child also lived in the apartment.

Fearing another child was alone inside, Daffron and Officer Bryan Davis entered the unlocked apartment.

According to the report, they noticed a "very strong odor of marijuana in the living room."

Daffron also noted the power was off and the residence was "very warm inside."

At approximately 3:22 a.m. Cooper arrived at the residence.

When Daffron asked where she had been, Cooper reportedly said she had a flat around 2:30 p.m. on Interstate 55.

Cooper said after sitting on the side of the road "for some time," she tried to fix the flat herself, then someone tried to help her but could not change the tire.

Daffron noted in his report that Cooper did not have any "stains on her clothing or hands" to indicate she had tried to change the tire.

Officer Davis also noted Cooper's "clothing was white and still very clean."

He added in the report that there were "no signs of black, grass or dirt anywhere about her clothing that would indicate an all day effort in changing a tire."

Cooper claimed she tried to call several friends to help, but they could not make it.

According to the report, Cooper said "she sat on the road for hours before trying other methods of assistance."

When Davis asked if Cooper attempted to contact someone to come pick up her son or to watch after him, "she advised that her phone had died and she wasn't able to."

"Cooper showed me her call history," Daffron noted. "I noticed phone calls throughout the day, including the times that she said her phone was dead."

After her phone died, Cooper told the officers she walked somewhere "lit up" to charge it. She told police it was after dark when the phone died.

Eventually, she called 911 and an Arkansas State Police officer came to change her tire.

Daffron contacted ASP and reportedly learned that the trooper contacted Cooper at approximately 1 a.m.

"This was almost 10 hours from the time Ms. Cooper alleged that she initially had a flat tire," the report stated.

When asked about the strong smell of marijuana in the house, Cooper reportedly told the officers that "someone must have gone inside and smoked while she was gone."

Daffron cited Cooper for endangering the welfare of a minor-third degree and gave her a May 25 court date.

The DCFS agent, according to the report, "advised that he was not taking children into care at that time, but would be back" to see if Cooper had gotten the power turned back on.

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