ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar) — A Texas couple is behind bars after police say they left their three children in a car while they went inside a restaurant to eat. According to the Odessa Police Department, Joseph Belis, 28, and Cassidy Belis, 27, left their three young children inside their vehicle with the motor running for more than an hour while they were inside Texas Roadhouse.
The man and woman were taken into custody March 5 after witnesses called 911 to report the situation. They have been charged with child abandonment/endangering a child and each parent is being held on a $7,500 bond, according to jail records.
An arrest affidavit stated the parents were drinking alcohol inside the restaurant and both had “a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from their breath”. While searching the vehicle, police also found just under two ounces of marijuana in the center console “where the children could have (reached) it”.
Now law enforcement agencies have a message for other parents, “Don’t leave your children in the car unattended, period,” said Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis.
Parents caught leaving a child under the age of 15 in a vehicle could face harsh charges, from a state jail felony to a third degree felony. OPD Corporal Steve LeSueur said charges would vary depending on the situation.
“It really just depends on where it’s at, what the ages of the children are, where the parents are, how long the children are left unattended,” he said.
Weather conditions could also play a role in determining charges.
“The elements can cause extreme heat in that car during summertime, especially if the A/C isn’t running, and again, if it’s cold, those kids are freezing,” Griffis said.
OPD and the Sheriff said if you see a child left alone in a vehicle, call 911 immediately, that call could save a life.