A Belgrade mother has been charged after her young son with special needs wandered away from home and walked more than five miles before a passer-by pulled him from a stream in Mount Vernon.
Melissa Godin, 31, of Belgrade, was issued a summons Tuesday morning charging her with endangering the welfare of a child, said state police Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance. The trooper also notified the Department of Health and Human Services.
“The parent didn’t realize he was missing until I brought him home,” Perkins-Vance said.
The pre-teen child — Perkins-Vance declined to provide the boy’s specific age — was wet but otherwise uninjured during the ordeal.
“This could have turned out very differently,” Perkins-Vance said.
The boy was near the Long Pond Storage Dam on Wings Mills Road when Patricia Stanton first came across the child around 6 a.m. Monday walking in the road. Stanton, dean of students at Maranacook Community School, was going to school early to catch up on some work. Stanton, 57, approached the child slowly as he walked in the middle of the road. Stanton said she could not drive around the walker safely.
“I beeped my horn,” Stanton said. “There was no movement.”
Stanton said she could tell the person was small but at that point was unsure whether it was a child. The person was wearing a jacket with a hood.
“My inclination was that it was a kid,” she said.
The walker, whom Stanton soon would learn was a young boy, began putting his hands in the air and bouncing back and forth, as though dancing.
“I was confused,” Stanton said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”
When Stanton drove past, she looked in her mirror and discovered the walker was indeed a child. She assumed he lived nearby and thought about driving on. The feeling in her gut made her stop.
“It didn’t feel right,” Stanton said.
Stanton went back, at which point the child was going down an embankment toward the water. She pulled her car to a stop and called 911.
Stanton got out of her car and tried to talk to the boy, but the child ignored Stanton’s requests for a name. The boy went into the water and held on to the Wings Mills Road bridge as if he planned to walk under it. Stanton pulled him out of the water.
“One of his sneakers dropped off,” she said.
Stanton and the child sat on the embankment. The boy tried to tell her his name, but Stanton could not understand what he was saying.
“I could see he was a special-needs kid,” she said. “He said â€˜momma’ and then â€˜no.’”
The boy pulled off his other sneaker and threw it into the water. Stanton’s concern grew quickly.
“It was chilly,” she said. “I was cold in just that short time. I don’t know how he wasn’t shaking.”
The boy walked back up to the road and started walking toward a house Stanton hoped was his home.
“He just kept on going,” she said. “He held my hand a little bit, but he didn’t want to the whole time. I could tell he wasn’t going to stop.”
The boy went over another guardrail and climbed onto a large culvert with a stream flowing through it. Stanton, who had been hesitant to forcibly hold on to the boy, grabbed his ankles.
“I tried to hold him back,” Stanton said. “He was trying to climb down over the front of the culvert where the water was going through.”
Stanton tried to wave down passing motorists while keeping the child from going over the culvert. Finally a young man driving a Jeep, whom Stanton could identify only as Brad, stopped to help lift the boy off the culvert. They put the child in the Jeep to keep him warm.
Stanton said Brad’s presence offered a tremendous comfort and relief.
“He stayed right there,” she said. “To know I wasn’t alone with this kid, that there was somebody bigger and stronger than I am.”
Perkins-Vance, who recognized the child, said he had walked more than five miles during the early morning hours.
“It blows my mind that he made it that far,” Stanton said. “I just can’t believe he made it that far and nobody stopped.”
Stanton said the incident left her shaken. She was still visibly upset when she arrived at school. The principal offered her a chance to go home for the day, but Stanton decided to stay.
“This school is like family for me,” she said.
Stanton recalled an incident a number of years ago in which a child drowned and nobody knew it. The thought that something similar could happen to the boy was a fearful prospect.
“My adrenalin was going,” Stanton said. “This is water. This is a kid. There is a potential for something bad to happen. Talking about it now, I’m shaking again.”
Craig Crosby — 621-5642 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @CraigCrosby4