The Wichita woman who left her 5-year-old grandson at a west-side Kohl’s store as she fled a confrontation spurred by a shoplifting attempt has pleaded guilty in the case.
Prosecutors plan to ask a Sedgwick County judge to send 41-year-old Kathleen A. Williams to prison when she is sentenced next month on one count of contributing to the misconduct of a child or deprivation by encouraging the child to become or remain a child in need of care and one count of theft after prior convictions, according to her plea agreement. The first is a misdemeanor crime; the second is a felony.
Originally, Williams was charged with two felonies — child abandonment and theft — after Kohl’s employees caught her stealing women’s clothing and jewelry on June 16. Williams returned the goods to a security guard who approached her outside of the store in the 6900 block of West Kellogg but ran away, leaving her grandson behind.
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Meanwhile, the boy at the center of the case captured the attention of The Eagle’s readers first when police discussed his abandonment with reporters on June 17, and then again when they learned that no relatives showed up to claim him at the first of his child-in-need-care (CINC) hearings.
It was unclear Friday whether the boy has since been returned to his biological mother in Texas or remains in foster care in Kansas. He’s 6 now.
At the last of the court hearings in the boy’s CINC case that was opened to The Eagle in September, attorneys told District Judge Jeffrey Syrios their attempts to locate the boy’s birth father, whom the child knows only by name, were unsuccessful.
Although the boy’s mother wanted her son reintegrated into her home, they said, she was not in a position to do so, in part because she had tested positive for methamphetamine after giving birth to her fourth child.
At the time, social workers in Texas recommended that no child live in her home. The court had planned to evaluate the mother’s progress with drug treatment in December. The outcome of that evaluation is unknown, however, because all of the boy’s CINC hearings after the one in September were closed to the public and the media.
The mother, Tiffani Picciurro, told The Eagle in interviews in June and July that her son had been living with Williams, who is his paternal grandmother, since August 2011 and that she hadn’t seen him in person since.
In her interviews, she said she had allowed Williams to take the boy from Colorado, where the family was living at the time, to Kansas but never retrieved him because she wanted to avoid family conflict. Sometime afterward she relocated to Amarillo, Texas, where she lives with her fiance. The couple has three other children.
Sedgwick County District Court records show Williams also has a history of substance abuse, including methamphetamine and marijuana use.
As part of her plea deal with prosecutors, Williams agreed to admit guilt to the two charges connected to the case at Kohl’s and to admit that she violated the terms of her probation in her two prior theft cases.
Attorneys said in the plea document that they plan to recommend Williams be incarcerated for six months for the count involving her grandson when she is sentenced. For the theft charge, they will ask the judge to impose the maximum sentence available, which is 11 months in prison.
Williams pleaded guilty Jan. 29, records show. She remains in Sedgwick County Jail while awaiting sentencing.