WOONSOCKET – A 27-year-old city man is facing charges of child neglect after two small children were discovered wandering around Monument Square Tuesday morning without any adult supervision.
Justin R. Pomerleau of 28 Church St. was supposed to be watching them, but he didn’t even realize the children were missing from his apartment until police showed up at the door with their photographs about 2 p.m.
That was almost seven hours after they were scooped up by a local shopkeeper who called the police.
Though the children were wearing flip-flops on their feet, police said they were unharmed and otherwise appropriately dressed for winter and when officers retrieved them from the In and Out Mart, opposite the Stadium Theatre, about 8:30 a.m.
Police resorted to a house-by-house search for the parents as the day wore on and no missing person reports on the children were filed. They tried interviewing the children, who were said to be about three or four years old, but they were of no help.
“They didn’t know their last names, the names of their parents and they couldn’t say where they lived,” Detective Justin Glode said in a report.
When police knocked on Pomerleau’s door they said he answered and seemed surprised when the officers showed him the photos of the children.
“How did they sneak out of the house?” Pomerleau said.
Pomerleau told police he is not the father of the children, but the boyfriend of their mother, with whom he resides. He said she left the children with him when she went to work about 3:30 a.m.
Pomerleau said he napped for a while and the last he knew the children were sleeping as well. When their mother came home about 11 a.m., they sat down together and watched a movie. The first time either of them realized the children were missing was when the police showed up with their photographs.
Though she was home for some two and a half hours while the children were gone, the mother told police she assumed they were upstairs sleeping. She was not charged with any offense.
Police described the couple’s residence as “unkempt,” “dirty” and reeking of urine, particularly in a bedroom where the children sleep. When they arrived, they said they encountered a third, younger child milling about the apartment wearing a soiled diaper.
As he was being questioned by police, Pomerleau theorized at one point that the children forced open a window and climbed down a three-story fire escape, but police said even Pomerleau had trouble opening up the sticky window. At another point, Pomerleau downplayed his lax oversight, telling police it was “no big deal” that the children wandered off and that all kids do it at some time or another.
All three children were placed in the temporary custody of the state Department or Children, Youth and Families pending an investigation by the child welfare agency, police said
Follow Russ Olivo on Twitter @russolivo