‘We weren’t thinking’

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PARIS – He had forgotten to buy something. She had to use the bathroom. He was late for work.

They said they were only running into Oxford’s Wal-Mart for a couple minutes, leaving their 2-week-old infant in the car.

When Christopher Butts, 22, of Poland, and his fiance, Jessica Smith, 21, came back that Nov. 15, officer Alan Coffin of the Oxford Police Department was waiting. A concerned person who saw the baby alone in the car had called 911.

Coffin issued a summons to each of them for child endangerment.

The couple appeared in 11th District Court Thursday. Butts, who went first, said he wanted to plead guilty and get the whole ordeal over with, but changed his mind when the judge advised he could get a court-appointed attorney. Smith made the same decision, and pleas of not guilty were entered.

Each could face a penalty of up to 364 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine for the Class D misdemeanors.

After Thursday’s court proceedings, Butts and Smith said they didn’t know leaving an infant alone in a car – even for just a couple of minutes – was illegal.

They had taken the infant in with them when they went shopping that morning, Butts said, but left her in the car when they went back in the store.

“We weren’t thinking,” Butts said, explaining that he was running late for work at the time of the incident.

The infant is staying with a grandparent while the case is pending, Butts said.

After the incident, state Department of Health and Human Services officials met with the couple. Smith said she and Butts told them the truth, that they had made a mistake. She said DHHS is no longer looking at them.

“We have no reason to lie,” Smith said.

Since the incident, Butts said “they have gotten help” with their parenting. They had only been a mom and dad for two weeks at the time.

“I’m trying to get through it,” Butts said. “I don’t understand why this became such a big story.”

Butts said it was hard to go back to work and school because of the publicity.

The couple will go back to court on March 20. The judge set $1,000 unsecured bail for each of them. They’ll only have to pay it if they don’t show up for court.

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