A teacher’s aide accused of leaving her own 12-year-old daughter in a car while she went to work was unable to find a babysitter, according to her defense attorney.
Tracy Betts, 41, pleaded not guilty to child endangerment charges when she appeared Thursday at a pretrial hearing in Murrieta.
Betts was arrested in February after her daughter was found naked and walking through a Temecula neighborhood eating food out of trash cans.
Police officers reported that the girl was found inside a parked BMW wearing no clothes. The car was found within walking distance of Vail Elementary School where Betts works as a teacher’s assistant.
According to defense attorney Miles Clark, Betts made a bad decision when she left the child inside her parked car but did nothing criminal.
“She was left with a bra and underwear on - similar when parents take their kids to the beach,” Clark said. “That’s the condition in which she was left in by my client.”
The windows were cracked and the doors were open he said. Clark said the child suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and has a tendency to hoard food.
He said the child’s mental condition has limited the means her parents can care for her while they are at work.
“No one wanted to keep her,” Clark said. “Mom has taken many days off work to care for her. So has Dad. This particular day no one could care for her.”
“The child has always been properly cared for. They are very loving parents,” he said.
The next court hearing for Betts was scheduled for October 11. If convicted she faces a maximum penalty of a year in prison.