Markea Kirby, 31, of Forest Hills faces a preliminary hearing before District Judge Thomas Caulfield at 9 a.m. Dec. 5 on charges of endangering the welfare of children after her 4-year-old daughter was found wandering alone in the Plaza Shopping Center on Ardmore Boulevard on Nov. 27.
According to an incident report filed by Forest Hills police, a woman approached an officer on patrol in the shopping center to advise him that another woman had found a very young child without shoes or a jacket near Jodi B's Restaurant. The second woman told the officer she had been driving through the shopping center, spotted the child and was concerned for her safety.
The woman put her coat on the young girl and was holding her to keep her feet off the very cold sidewalk on the 35-degree day. The child was able to tell police her name and point to the neighborhood where she lived.
"The girl was able to lead us up to her house," police Chief Chuck Williams said.
A neighbor was able to identify the girl as living in the house but had no further information.
The child said she had been home alone and that her mother was not there. Police entered the girl's home through an open door and discovered no one was home.
Police transported the child to the Forest Hills Police station to have her examined by Woodland Hills EMS. According to the police report, she had a cough and cold—and had been outside without proper clothing. Williams said officers were concerned about the child suffering hypothermia given the wintry weather outside.
After finding Kirby's name on a piece of mail in the home, police were able to track her down. After she confirmed the girl was her daughter, Kirby was asked by police to report to the station. Kirby told police she had gone across the street for tea and was only gone a short time. However, police had already had the girl for about 45 minutes.
When Kirby arrived at the station, two officers spoke to her and both detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on her breath. They also noted she had a tired, worn, disheveled appearance.
Police had already contacted a caseworker at the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families. The two officers determined Kirby was not physically capable of safely taking custody of the child, so the child was released to a CYF caseworker. A second child, who had been in school, was also taken into the custody of CYF.
When she was taken into custody, Kirby told police she had left the girl alone while she went to a neighbor's residence to smoke marijuana and drink alcoholic beverages. She was arraigned before Judge Caulfield in District Court 8, where she was also charged with public drunkenness and prohibited acts, then transported to Allegheny County Jail.
Bail was set at $10,000, which she posted on Nov. 28.
The bottom line is, according to Williams, "Parents must be responsible for their children."