Updated: 08/20/2014 8:55 AM
Created: 08/19/2014 11:26 AM WHEC.com
By: Lynette Adams
A mother and grandfather have been charged after a three-year-old girl was found walking alone at night for more than an hour.
Livingston County Sheriff’s Deputies have arrested the child’s mother, 28-year-old Helen Hotchkiss, and grandfather, 53-year-old Melvin Hotchkiss, both of Avon.
Investigators say someone called 911 after seeing the toddler walking around Garden Street in the Town of Lima Saturday around 8 p.m.
Deputies say they went door to door looking for the child's parents for nearly an hour. That's when they say Melvin Hotchkiss Junior was also seen looking for the child. Investigators say he originally gave them a fake name because he thought there was a warrant out for his arrest.
The mother claims they were camping when the toddler walked off after being put to bed, but police say she never called 911 when she noticed her missing. She’s facing a charge of child endangerment, but one family friend says what happened Saturday night was no criminal act.
“Bella is one of those little kids that is 100% excitement, and she’s going as fast as she can where ever she goes. She has no fear of anything,” said Neil Gibson.
Gibson says the knock came at the door Saturday night. His friend Melvin Hotchkiss Jr. told him his three-year-old granddaughter was missing. Gibson says he headed out to help search, but it wasn’t long before she was found. Gibson said she was heading to play with his dog, something she does often.
“She knows she isn’t supposed to cross the road, so she went the wrong way. She went up one driveway and came back. She was literally in her own driveway because this is Melvin’s property.
Gibson says Hotchkiss owns more than 40 acres of land right next to his property, and the family often camps there, and that’s what was going on when the girl wandered off.
“Our patrols got a phone call again from a neighbor in the area, saying they found this girl wet because it was raining out and in dirty clothes walking down the middle of a country road. The road was unlit. Again, it was a dangerous, dangerous situation,” said Thomas Dougherty, Livingston County sheriff.
Dougherty says this was no innocent situation. He questions why the girls’ mother didn’t call 911 immediately.
“In this case, our deputies had the child and were going door to door looking for a parent,” said Dougherty.
Helen Hotchkiss is charged with endangering the welfare of a child and Melvin Hotchkiss Jr. is charged with criminal impersonation.
The child is safe and back home with her parents. We've also learned the mother is eight months pregnant.