A little girl had a bad dream and woke up to find no one home to comfort her. So, she went to the neighbor for help and now her father is facing criminal charges after police found him in a bar.
"When children are neglected or abused, it's a serious situation," said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom.
Richard Donald Moore, 47, was formally charged with one count of child neglect after police were called to his Burnsville neighborhood hours after his 4-year-old daughter woke up clutching a blanket and walked out of her house and woke a neighbor to say she had a nightmare and couldn't find her dad.
"It's a pretty dangerous situation when you have a child that young of an age waling outside on streets, in driveways, after midnight alone," Backstrom said.
The girl's mother was reportedly away because she travels for work, and when police contacted her, she said Moore was supposed to be at home and then gave officers the names of a few bars to go check. According to the complaint, repeated calls to Moore from the girl's mother went unanswered.
After obtaining Moore's license plate number and searching local bar parking lots, police eventually him on the patio at Ansari's Mediterranean Grill and Lounge having drinks with a woman who told police Moore picked her up at 10 p.m. that night, leading investigators to believe his daughter had been home alone for more than three hours.
"You're not supposed to leave a child under the age of 7 alone in a home for any period of time because of the dangers associated with it," Backstrom said.
The woman at the bar also told police that she has known Moore for a year, but she did not know his child was at home. Moore, however, admitted she was there when police asked.
"What happened to dad that he could not attach to his child and understand how the rest of us look at this and say, 'Oh my God, this is a dramatic neglect case?'" asked Karina Forrst-Perkins, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota.
Dakota County Social Services defines leaving any child aged 7 or younger alone as a "lack of supervision," and requires children ages 8 and 9 not be left alone for more than two hours.
"This child is four," Forrst-Perkins continued. "Could the child meet their needs like an adult can meet their needs? No."
DCSS also says children aged 10-13 shouldn't be left alone for more than 12 hours, and 14-year-olds should not be left alone for more than a day at a time.
Backstrom said Moore is fortunate his daughter did the right thing and went to a caring neighbor, but he makes no bones about the fact that he feels charges are warranted.
"It's a lesson for everyone to learn from," Backstrom said. "Young children need to be protected."
A single count of neglect of a child carries a maximum sentence of a year imprisonment and fines up to $3,000.
FOX 9 News did visit Moore's home for comment, but the woman who answered the door said she had no interest in discussing the complaint.
A relative picked up the girl from the neighbor's home the night of the incident and the criminal complaint said she would be kept in the care of that family member until the girl's mother could catch the first flight home.