Georgetown woman accused of leaving grandson in hot car

Leia Payne. (Williamson County Sheriff's Office)
Leia Payne. (Williamson County Sheriff's Office)

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — A Georgetown grandmother who police say left her 2-year-old grandson in a hot car for more than 20 minutes is now facing charges.

According to an arrest affidavit, on Friday, Sept. 1, Leia Payne, 54, went into the Ross department store located at 1019 West University Ave. in Georgetown, but left her grandson strapped in a car seat. A witness who called 911 said the minivan only had one window down and the child was “crying out for help” and “sweating.”

When an officer arrived at the shopping center, he discovered the car was unlocked and immediately took the child out.

The child was extremely hot to the touch and all of his clothing was drenched in sweat, the affidavit continued. A temperature reading showed the van was around 130 degrees, even after the officer opened the door.

“A 2-year-old doesn’t have the coping mechanism to be able to get out of the car seat, turn the car on, turn on the air conditioning, roll down windows. They have no clue. We’re their caregivers. We have to take care of them. If we don’t do that, it could be catastrophic,” explained Captain Roland Waits, Georgetown Police Department. “We’re fortunate it wasn’t [catastrophic] because people got involved. Fortunately, somebody was paying attention.”

A few minutes after the officer pulled the child out of the van, Payne walked up.

Payne told the officer she was at the store to pick up other family members who were shopping inside but instead of waiting for them in the car, she went inside. Surveillance footage showed Payne entering the store at 4:33 p.m. and then leaving at 4:57 p.m. The boy was alone in the van for 24 minutes.

“She said she had a lot on her mind — I get that. Day in and day out each one of us has a ton of stuff on our mind,” said Waits. “It could have gone so much worse. We have to pay attention to what we’re doing.”

Payne is charged with abandoning a child with intent to return.

“The fact is outside it was 90 degrees plus,” Waits said. “Inside the car it was 130 degrees. It was not left on. There was no air conditioning. There is enough there to file formal charges.”

The Williamson County District Attorney’s Office will ultimately decide whether to prosecute Payne to the full extent of the charge.

The toddler was taken to Seton Medical Center in Round Rock where he was treated and released a couple of hours later.

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