Louisiana Mother, Two Others Charged with Leaving Toddler in Car While Hitting Truck Stop Casino

Posted on: August 6, 2019, 07:23h. 

Last updated on: August 7, 2019, 11:05h.

Three people were arrested in Louisiana on Friday evening on charges they left a toddler alone in a car at a truck stop casino. Those arrested include the child’s mother and her apparent boyfriend.

From left to right, Pashuia Thomas, Christine Johnson, and Leonard Ray Boagni were charged with child desertion after they left Thomas’ 2-year-old son in a car while they played at a Louisiana truck stop casino. (Image: WAFB-TV/St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office)

According to the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office, law enforcement officers were notified around 7:30 pm CT by a security guard and an employee of the Kings Truck Stop and Casino in Port Barre that they saw a 2-year-old boy alone in a vehicle, with its windows only slightly rolled down. Port Barre is about an hour west of Baton Rouge.

In reviewing security camera footage, detectives saw that Pashuia Thomas, the child’s mother, and Christine Johnson initially rotated in staying in the car with the child, as each woman would play for about five minutes in the casino.

The last time that Thomas entered the casino, she stayed for about 45 minutes. During that time, the child was observed leaving the vehicle and walking toward the truck stop. An employee located the child and tried to find his parents. Moments later Leonard Ray Boagni approached the employee and allegedly said the boy belonged to his girlfriend.

At that time, officers allege Boagni returned him to the car, and both he and Johnson then went into the casino, leaving the child by himself.

Johnson was seen several times entering and exiting the casino while the child remained in the car alone,” the sheriff’s report stated. “Seeing this, the security officer notified the management and notified the sheriff’s office.”

Thomas, 32, Johnson, 34, and Boagni, 40, were all charged with a count of child desertion. They were taken to the parish jail for booking and all three posted $1,500 bonds. The sheriff’s release did not indicate when the next court appearance would take place.

The child, the sheriff’s office said, was released to his grandfather.

Heat Can Kill Kids

According to Weather.com, the temperature at nearby Opelousas was 88 degrees on Friday.

The Web site KidsAndCars.org tracks the number of children who die in hot cars annually. Through last Thursday, there have been 26 such deaths in 2019. Five of those deaths took place in a six-day span up through last Thursday.

On average, 38 kids die annually from being left in hot cars. Last year was the record, with 53 deaths. That included at least one fatality at a casino, where an Oklahoma woman faces federal murder charges for leaving her 5-year-old grandson in a car while she spent six afternoon hours at a tribal casino.

The organization said a young child’s body temperature can rise up to five times faster than an adult, meaning as the temperature in a car increases, so, too, does the child’s chance for a fatal heatstroke.

“Cracking the windows does NOT drastically reduce the temperature inside a vehicle,” the organization posted in a document on the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles.

Other Dangers Exist

Beyond heatstroke, young children face strangulation dangers from seat belts. Kids also have been seriously injured from falling out of vehicles, and by being run over by a vehicle whose driver could not see the young child behind or in front of them.

In addition, children left unattended may find a choking hazard within their reach.

KidsAndCards.org recommends that anyone who sees a young child left unattended in a vehicle should call 9-1-1 immediately. They should work to remove the child immediately if they observe any signs of distress.