RICHMOND, Va. – Police have arrested a mother after her child was found wandering alone along West Broad Street multiple times in four days. Michelle L. Knighten, 39, is charged with one count of felony child neglect, according to Richmond Police.
Court records indicate that Knighten has a lengthy history of drinking and driving. According to court records, police have charged Knighten with DWI four different times since 2009; in Charlottesville, Richmond and Henrico. CBS 6 also obtained a felony arrest warrant for Knighten out of Henrico, which shows that in May 2013 she was charged with maliciously wounding a man with whom she has a child. That charge was later dismissed, according to her lawyer Peter Baruch.
The four-year-old boy was first spotted walking along the 100 block of West Broad Street on Friday.
Then on Monday police responded after a man walking his dog saw the child and called 911, witnesses said.
The boy ended up on the sidewalk along Broad Street three different times in four days, according to police.
Neighbors Giovanni Abruzzese said he called police on Friday when he found the child walking down four flights of stairs alone and nude.
“I was expecting Richmond Police and CPS to get the child into a safe home,” Abruzzese said.
“This is Broad Street. It's one of the busiest streets if not the busiest in Richmond,” he said about the dangers of the situation.
Detective Steve Kendell with the Richmond Police Department said the first time RPD found the child they blamed a distracted mother.
The second time, Kendell said they thought the mom had a medical condition, and again, did not press charges.
“Some people might say after the second time there should have been this charge placed,” Melissa Hipolit said to Kendell
“After talking to the mother we thought she was medically ill,” Kendell said.
Still, by the third time the child was found wandering outside alone, which happened Monday morning, no charges had been placed and neighbors were concerned.
“Three times is too much,” Abruzzese.
By Tuesday afternoon, RPD announced they had charged the boy’s mother, Michelle Knighten, with felony child neglect.
“The third time was the cake,” Kendell said.
While CBS 6 was visiting Knighten’s apartment on Tuesday, a man showed up carrying a child that Abruzzese identified as the wandering 4-year-old.
“I wanted to ask you if the child is OK?” Melissa Hipolit asked.
“The child is fine,” the man replied before shutting the door to the apartment.
CBS 6 is not sure who the man is, but police did tell us the boy is in the custody of his father.
Neighbor Mizante Sorilla says last Friday the boy and his mother Michelle Knighten were visiting her apartment for a while.
She said she was taken aback when the young boy was able to open the door himself to leave.
"It's as simple as this turn --the knob and walked out," Sorilla explained.
After the pair left, Sorilla said later she noticed something odd.
The child's toy firetruck was in the hallway, their apartment door was open, and the little boy's mother was asleep on the bed.
There was no sign of the little boy.
"I shook her like this. I said the baby is gone, the baby is gone. I ran out of the door and I said you go and check this way, I will check that way," Sorilla said.
CBS 6 Legal Analyst Todd Stone says if convicted on the felony child neglect charge, the mother could face up to five years in prison.