Atlanta police report finding two young children alone in a chilly apartment with no electrical power and only a gas oven on -- with its door perilously open -- to keep them warm.
"Apparently, the security guard that works out there was doing his routine patrol. He discovered an open door [to the apartment]," Sgt. Greg Lyon of the Atlanta Police Department told Fox 5 Atlanta. "That security guard went inside to see if everything was OK -- maybe it was accidentally left open. What he found inside was two children, a 6-year-old and 2-year-old, that had been left alone."
According to CBS Atlanta, police also found dog feces littering the apartment floor -- apparently from a pit bull puppy left inside it with the children. Police estimated that they had been left alone for several hours when found early Wednesday.
Police arrested the toddlers' mother, 22-year-old Shantonia Heard (pictured at left) as she returned to the apartment while investigators were there. Heard told police that she had gone to her cousin's house to charge her cell phone, CBS Atlanta reported. Heard faces charges of child endangerment and neglect.
Neighbors expressed outrage about the incident. "You're supposed to know better," Marquita Crudup, who lives with her 6-year-old son in the apartment above Heard, told WXIA-TV in Atlanta. "I would be worried about the house burning down.... I just don't understand."
"When I heard about it, tears came to my eyes 'cause I have grandchildren," said another neighbor, Augusta Little.
One of Heard's cousins told WXIA that the situation has been misunderstood and that Heard left the children for only a few minutes.
Despite the circumstances in which they were found, the children reportedly were unharmed and in good health, and they are now in the custody of the Division of Family and Children Services.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this story concerns young children being left alone with a gas oven on: Aside from the risk of burns from an open oven, safety officials warn that ovens should never be used to heat a home because of the high danger of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.
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