MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

January 15, 2013

Woman held after kids found in car

Police: Casino cameras show woman gambling

A Fort Gibson woman arrested for allegedly leaving her young children in a vehicle while she gambled inside a casino was ordered held on $5,000 bond Tuesday.

Sharonda Sheppard, 29, was arrested at the Cherokee Casino Fort Gibson on Monday afternoon after a passerby alerted authorities to the children’s whereabouts.

Fort Gibson Police Department Lt. Brandon Combs said three children — two 8-year-olds and one 10-year-old — were found to have been unattended inside the vehicle for about 40 minutes.

“A determination was made pretty soon into it that we were going to arrest the woman,” Combs said. “Children’s safety comes first. We just have no patience for that.”

Combs said Sheppard told officers the children had been left unattended for 10 minutes as she searched for someone inside the casino. Combs said casino security cameras told a different story.

“Luckily, the casino has about five million cameras covering the entire place,” Combs said. “So from the time she pulled up to the time she exited the casino to go back to her car, she was on camera. And they were time-stamped, so there’s no question.”

Combs said casino security officers and the footage confirmed Sheppard had played at casino machines while inside.

It was 33 degrees outside when officers arrived, Combs said.

“She said the vehicle’s heater had been left on the entire time,” Combs said. “But when the officer checked inside the car, it was still cold.”

Combs said the Department of Human Services was notified, but the children were placed in the care of a family member.

Fort Gibson Police Chief Clint Vernon said, either way, leaving children unattended is a problem.

“There’s two concerns here,” Vernon said. “If the car was running, there’s risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. And then of course if it wasn’t, there’s risk of hypothermia. I have no tolerance for something like that.”

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.

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