It was a sight that made one driver slam on the brakes - a young child barefoot and in a diaper by the side of a busy highway. Now, the child's mother is in trouble with the law.
A detective with the Blue Springs Police Department said a motorist saw the 5-year-old boy wearing nothing but a pink pull-up diaper walking along Missouri AA Highway near Adams Dairy Parkway about 7 a.m. Thursday.
The driver came to a nearby daycare, thinking the child was one of theirs, but it wasn't.
Fortunately, the daycare's owner was able to provide some comfort to the boy, who is autistic.
"This baby couldn't talk. He could say 'potty' and he could say 'mommy' but that was all. He was definitely a special needs child; you could tell. He clung on to me and didn't want to let go of me," Cindy Harris, the owner of Kidz Cove, said.
The motorist was one of several drivers who had pulled over and called police, saying they almost hit the boy. When officers arrived, they asked the child several questions but the child was unintelligible.
Some time later, a woman contacted Blue Springs police and told them she believed the child they found was hers. The detective said the woman told police she was sleeping when someone woke her up and told her a child was found on AA Highway. The woman then checked on her own child, only to find him missing.
The neighbor who woke the mother up told KCTV5 that the woman was frantic.
"She was looking everywhere," the neighbor, who declined to be identified, said. "And I told her I had seen the policeman carrying the little boy."
But police said the woman did not call police.
The mother's home, located just outside of Blue Springs, MO, is roughly a quarter of a mile east from where the child was found.
The mother, 38-year-old Rhonda Walter, was arrested and is being held in the Jackson County jail. She was charged with child endangerment, a misdemeanor, and her bond was set at $1,000.
The child was turned over to social services. While in police custody, he spit in an officer's face and hit officers.
A Blue Springs police report details deplorable conditions inside the home. Police said the home had no drywall, exposed wires and insulation and mold growing inside. Walter allegedly told police that she couldn't afford a chain lock to keep the boy from escaping.
Police said the boy has repeatedly gotten out before and at least one officer recognized his description.
"It was awful. It was an awful morning. It was terrible," Harris said. "It's very upsetting. It's still upsetting. It's been on my mind all day long."
Everyone agrees it is fortunate the situation didn't end up worse.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.