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Child abuse charged after injury to 3-year-old

Stephanie Austin
Stephanie Austin
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Police say mom took son to McDonald’s after SUV rolled over him

An Albuquerque woman who took her injured, bleeding young son to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal a half-hour after her vehicle rolled over him has been charged with child abuse.

Stephanie Austin, 30, the mother of two sons, 3 and 10, parked her tan Ford Explorer outside her home in the 1300 block of Tres Ritos SW about 10 a.m. on July 4. She had just run some errands, according to a criminal complaint, and next on the day’s agenda was a swim with her sons.

Her two boys were in the back seat – the little one on the right in his car seat, his big brother beside him on the left. With the engine on and keys still in the ignition, Austin put the vehicle in park, got out and went inside for about five minutes, according to the complaint.

While she was inside, according to the complaint, the Explorer rolled backward and over the 3-year-old, who somehow had managed to get out of his car seat. After rolling over him, the vehicle kept moving, stopping only when it hit a fence.

When the 10-year-old told his mother what happened, Austin wiped off the boy’s face, took him to a McDonald’s drive-thru near Arenal and Coors, and got him a Happy Meal, according to the criminal complaint. It was not clear Monday whether the older brother also got a Happy Meal, which usually includes a toy along with a burger or chicken nuggets, fruit and a drink.

“She wanted to calm him down because he was real scared,” the boy’s grandmother, Mary Helen Dimas, told KOAT-TV. “She didn’t think it was that serious,” she said, referring to why Austin took the child for food instead of immediate medical attention.

At about 11 a.m., Austin took the injured child to an urgent care facility near Atrisco and St. Joseph’s SW, telling the staff he had fallen off his bicycle, according to the criminal complaint. From there, an ambulance transported him to University of New Mexico Hospital with extensive lacerations and scrapes, and bleeding from his head and both legs; he was kept in the hospital overnight, the criminal complaint states.

Meanwhile, Albuquerque police contacted the Crimes Against Children Unit and told an on-call detective that Austin initially said her son fell off his bike, then said he got hurt when he fell out of her vehicle while it was moving. The detective arrested Austin, charging her with abandonment or abuse of a child, a charge used when one is suspected of having “placed (a child) in a situation that may endanger the child’s life or health,” according to New Mexico statute.

At about 2 a.m. the following morning, Austin was put into her cell in the Metropolitan Detention Center, with her bond set at $15,000 cash or surety. Online jail records do not indicate she has been released.

The Children Youth and Family Department would not say whether the child was taken from Austin’s custody and placed in CYFD care.

“We are aware of this case,” said CYFD spokeswoman Helen Quintana, “and we are investigating it.”

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