A little boy earlier this week ended up in police protective custody after the grandmother who reportedly has raised him since infancy left him at a Wichita Kohl’s department store and never came back.
On Friday, he was alone again when no relatives showed up before a judge to claim him.
Attorneys at a hearing to determine who would receive temporary custody of the 5-year-old boy told a judge Friday morning that his mother and an aunt had been notified that the hearing would take place but that neither were in the courtroom to speak on his behalf. His father hadn’t yet been found, and the grandmother who abandoned him Tuesday at Kohl’s when she bolted from a shoplifting stop was still on the run from law enforcement, Sedgwick County Assistant District Attorney Amanda Marino said.
The judge placed the child in the temporary custody of the state. Next month, a trial in juvenile court will determine whether the boy is a child in need of care.
Until then, he will be put into foster care while the Department for Children and Families continues to attempt to contact his relatives, and while law enforcement tries to piece together the circumstances that brought him here.
“Efforts will be made to get in touch with people” related to the boy before the court ultimately decides where to place him in the long term, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said.
“We try to find somebody that the child at least knows and would be more comfortable with in the family before we go that route,” he said, referring to foster care.
“But as you saw from today’s hearing that just wasn’t an option.”
Left at Kohl’s
Wichita police said Wednesday that the boy had been left at the Kohl’s in the 6900 block of West Kellogg after the store caught his 41-year-old grandmother trying to shoplift about $200 worth of clothing.
The woman returned the clothes after the theft attempt but ran from the building without her grandson and disappeared.
Wichita police Detective Andrew Do said Friday authorities were still looking for the grandmother. He said while she’s not been charged with any crime at this time, police plan to pursue a case against her for felony theft and possibly child endangerment or abandonment.
On Thursday, the boy’s mother contacted The Eagle, saying she had been looking for her son. Tiffani Picciurro said four years ago, in August 2011, she allowed the boy’s paternal grandmother to take him from Colorado to Kansas during a move. She hasn’t seen him since, she said. She’s living in Amarillo, Texas, now.
Picciurro, 25, said she learned Thursday her son was in police protective custody from a family member. That afternoon, she said she wanted to travel to Wichita for the hearing and was looking for a ride.
She did not appear in court Friday. Bennett said it’s “a little unusual” for no one from a child’s family to show up to his or her temporary placement hearing.
Picciurro said over the years she has known who her son has been with and that he has been living in the Wichita area. But, she said, she never retrieved the boy because she wanted to keep it “a family, civil matter.”
“I don’t know anybody up there” in Wichita, except for the grandmother, Picciurro said. She said she didn’t know the whereabouts of the boy’s father.
“I just kind of left it up to – if he was supposed to come back, he would come back,” she said.
Marino, the assistant district attorney, told the judge Friday in court that the boy has only seen his mother in photographs. He knows his father only by name, she said.
It was unknown Friday whether Picciurro ever filed a report with Colorado authorities or the Wichita Police Department regarding her son’s whereabouts. She did, however, make a complaint in Texas on March 2, 2013, a spokesman with the Amarillo Police Department confirmed Friday.
Sgt. Brent Barbee said in an e-mail that Picciurro told a detective that “while living in Colorado, she allowed her ex mother in law to take her son, or that she ‘sent her kids’ to be (with) her ex-mother in law in Kansas while she moved” about a year prior.
Later the grandmother “appeared to be avoiding contact,” Barbee said. It was classified as an “interference with child custody” case and there were no missing person reports filed, he said.
Barbee said Amarillo police closed the file “without charges” because the department didn’t have jurisdiction over the matter, “the child was not in danger” and Picciurro did not have a current court-issued child custody order. The detective told Picciurro to call Wichita police, he said.
Do, the Wichita police detective, said Friday that a check for the child’s name in the National Crime Information Center database, which includes missing people, turned up nothing.
He was awaiting phone calls from other jurisdictions where Picciurro may have made reports about her son Friday afternoon, he said.
“If one was filed they’ll find it and send it,” Do said. “They’ll let us know either way.”
‘Jump of hope’
Picciurro said Thursday when she learned her son was in police protective custody in Kansas “it was a little jump of hope, but then more scared” because she doesn’t know whether she’ll get him back.
She says she exchanged a few phone calls with him over the years, including one a few weeks ago. But she “doesn’t really” know him, she said.
“He would tell me he played with cars and things like that, but it wasn’t a long conversation,” she said.
“I know he’s missing his two bottom teeth.”