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Mother abandons her son, 7, on the road

She's now in the county jail, charged with child neglect. The boy is with an older sister, who had called police to report her brother missing.

Published July 28, 2005

ZEPHYRHILLS - Fed up with arguing, mom pulled over to the side of the road.

"Get lost," authorities said she told her son Tuesday.

He got out. She drove off.

The problem: Her son is 7.

Now Lori Heine, 46, is in the Pasco County jail, charged with child neglect.

The reason for the dispute: McDonald's Happy Meals.

The boy wanted a Cheeseburger Happy Meal and a Chicken McNuggets Happy Meal, the mother told police. He told officers his mother said he couldn't have any of the burgers she bought. According to police, the mother doesn't deny abandoning the boy.

"She told him to get out of the car and go away for a while," Zephyrhills police Capt. David Shears said.

Police say the mother kicked the boy out of the vehicle outside the closed Hercules Aquatics Center at 38110 State Road 54 and drove off, leaving him alone.

He wandered next door to Zephyrhills High School's baseball diamond, John F. Clements Field. The Zephyrhills Snappers were playing the Orlando Shockers in a Florida Collegiate Summer League game. The boy walked up to a spectator and asked for help, saying he couldn't find his mother.

"He advised the (spectator) that his mother was angry at him and told him she was never going to come back and pick him up," Shears said, "and she drove away."

The spectator called police at 8:23 p.m. But officers don't know what time the boy, whose name they did not release, was left alone, or for how long. The aquatics center closes at 7 p.m.

Officers took the boy to police headquarters and contacted the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Soon after, they got a call from the boy's sister, 23-year-old Kymberly Simms, reporting her brother missing. Police told her they had the boy at the station and to bring the mother to the DCF for questioning.

Simms said Heine had called her from a pay phone to tell her she could not find the boy.

When Heine arrived at the police station, officers reported that she appeared intoxicated.

"Ms. Heine advised that she sat in the car drinking beer and that when it was getting dark she could not locate her son," Shears said.

The mother told police she tried to look for him.

"That's where the discrepancy is," Shears said. "I'm quite sure the officers did a check of the area to see if they could locate the mother, but obviously they could not locate her. That's why we took the boy into protective custody."

Heine of 39122 County Road 54, Apt. 2144, is being held in lieu of $5,000 bail. She has no criminal record in Florida. Police said the DCF launched an investigation and placed the boy with Simms, his sister. DCF spokesman Andy Ritter said the agency cannot comment on investigations.

Police are relieved nothing happened to the boy. That stretch of SR 54 is busy, especially near the baseball field. The aquatics center is fenced in, and a 10-foot fence separates it from the high school property.

The police captain said the boy would have had to walk on the side of the busy street, through a heavily wooded area, to get to the baseball field.

"We're just glad to be able to locate him," Shears said, "and get the child back to family."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

[Last modified July 28, 2005, 01:10:15]

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