Mother charged after baby left at McDonald's

An Augusta woman who left her infant in the parking lot of an Evans fast-food restaurant has been charged with first-degree cruelty to children and abandonment of child, authorities said.

Harriett Hornsby Thomas, 27, of the 2400 block of Norton Drive, was arrested Saturday after the child was found at the McDonald's at 4264 Washington Road, according to a Columbia County sheriff's report.

About 50 minutes after police received a call from a witness, Mrs. Thomas' husband, Christopher, came to the restaurant. He said his wife told him she had lost the child and remembered she had gone to McDonald's.

Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said neither parent notified law enforcement or called 911.

Though Mrs. Thomas was arrested, parents in other instances are often simply warned. There is no set criteria for charging an individual in such instances, Capt. Morris said, adding that investigating officers are given discretion in filing charges.

"We take into account everything surrounding the incident at the time," he said. "In the end, was the child's health and/or well-being jeopardized? That's the key."

That's why Mrs. Thomas was charged, he said.

"We're dealing with a 6-month-old left in a carrier, in a parking lot, in the middle of July for an extended period of time," Capt. Morris said.

Capt. Morris said he encourages the public to become involved if they witness such a situation.

"Exactly what occurred in this particular case is what needs to occur in every case," Capt. Morris said. "Take responsibility; get involved; and notify proper authorities.

"It's life or death."

Mrs. Thomas was released from the Columbia County Detention Center on a $27,000 bond, according to a jailer. The infant was turned over to her grandfather by the Richmond County Division of Family and Children Services, according to the report.

Reach Jenna Martin at (706) 868-1222, ext. 109, or jenna.martin@augustachronicle.com.