Mom arrested for allowing 7-year-old son to go to park alone, says ‘Didn’t think I was doing anything wrong’

Port St. Lucie mom arrested after allowing her 7-year-old son to go to a nearby park alone

Port St. Lucie, FL (WPTV) — A mom faces a charge of child neglect after she allowed her son to go to a local park alone. She says he’s old enough but Port St. Lucie Police disagree. Now she’s fighting back.

“I’m totally dumbfounded by this whole situation,” says Nicole Gainey.

It began last Saturday afternoon when Gainey gave her son Dominic permission to walk from their house to Sportsman’s Park .

“Honestly didn’t think I was doing anything wrong,” says Gainey, “I was letting him go play.

It’s a half mile from their Port St. Lucie home. Dominic says it only takes him about 10 to 15 minutes to get there. During the walk, the 7-year-old passed a public pool. Someone there asked him where his mom was.

“They asked me a couple questions and I got scared so I ran off to the park and they called the cops,” says Dominic Guerrisi.

Dominic was playing at the park when an officer pulled up.

“They said ‘where does your mom live,’ ” says Dominic.

Police took him home. That’s when his mom was arrested and charged with child neglect. Gainey says she was shocked.

“My own bondsman said my parents would have been in jail every day,” says Gainey who paid nearly $4,000 to bond out.

The officer wrote in the report that Dominic was unsupervised at the park and that “numerous sex offenders reside in the vicinity.”

“He just basically kept going over that there’s pedophiles and this and that and basically the park wasn’t safe and he shouldn’t be there alone,” says Gainey.

She believes Dominic is mature enough to go to the park alone during the day. Gainey adds her son always has a cell phone which she calls to check on him.

“That I’m here and safe,” says Dominic.

Gainey plans to fight the felony charge. But after this she won’t let Dominic go to the park alone. She’s afraid she’ll be arrested again.

The St. Lucie County State’s Attorney’s office says there is no law that specifies how old a child has to be before he or she can go somewhere unsupervised. It’s done on a case-by-case basis

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47 comments

    • Robert Curtis

      Here is the sad truth. The sex offender registry has a great deal to do with why most rapes go unreported. Due to life-time punishment (the sex offender registry) for stupid things like guys urinating outside and teens having consensual sex or sexting. It waters down more serious crimes like that of rape and molestation. If a person is so evil they have to be on some kind of online hit-list then why are they even amongst us? By the registry being so punitive against families and not just individuals it’s logical that rapes and molestations become less important and more frequently unreported. The registry by default becomes it’s own worst enemy and violates it’s original purpose. It’s like holding sand. When you tighten your fist the sand falls through your fingers only to make a mess at your feet. TRUTH

  • SLF

    i would never let my 7-year old walk 1/2 a mile to a park by himself to play. They are innocent and people can kidnap or do things to that child that will scar him forever. The mother needs a lesson in maturity of children. She’s clueless.

    • Shawn Crislip

      Generations of people went to the park by themselves, without even having cell phones. We rode our bikes all over the place and we came home in time for dinner and, here’s the kicker, didn’t die. If you look at actual crime rate statistics, they’re lower now than they were twenty years ago. People are just stupid and terrified and convinced that because their baby is the center of their world that said child must be the target for everyone. Then people can’t figure out why kids are growing into teens and adults with no ability to cope with, or function in, the real world.

  • Jaclyn Spencer

    If there is no legal minimum age for a kid to be alone, how can a parent be arrested for criminal neglect when her kid asks to go to the park and she says sure? Especially if the kid has a phone on them and the mother is checking up on them? I seriously do not understand this nonsense.

    Apparently it is utterly random whether it’s okay for your 7-10 (or older) kid to be free-ranging around. When we were kids, we were out all day long, no adults anywhere nearby. You could get $1 and go to the pool, or you could go hang out at the park and play all day long. Nobody called the cops unless you were doing something wrong, and usually they called your parents. Now, just heading to the park is enough to warrant police being called and parents arrested? Even when Mom knows where the kid is and can call to check up (something our parents couldn’t do)? Really?

    Seven is NOT a baby. Many, if not most, seven year old kids are fine going out for a little free-range play time, and in fact, that’s healthy for them. We’ve all become so terrified of everyone else on the planet and it is nonsense. Yes, there are terrible people in our world, but generally speaking, the people you need to worry about are those you are family and friends to. They’re the ones who are most apt to harm your kids, not strangers.

    Oh, and for the record, the world is not more dangerous than it used to be.

    • Sydney

      I totally agree with you! If theres no law, then it’s just stupid for her to be arrested. Most ppl who would let their kid go wherever they want would have trust in their kid, and know that their child is responsible. Kids really shouldn’t be babied that much or they’ll never grow up. When I was 10 I was walking more than a mile to the bus and then taking it all the way to downtown seattle all by myself for the whole day. It teaches kids responsibility and its just stupid for her to get in trouble for trusting her kid. Its not her fault that some ppl are crazy and think its ok to attack kids

      • Tina

        I’d like to know where everyone is getting the idea that there is no minimum age limit for a child to be left alone. I am 40+ years old and ever since I can remember the age limit was 12. If Florida doesn’t have one then they are not doing what is right for the children. 7 is too young. If he was with a group of kids than that would be fine. By him running to the park to play after he became scared proved he is no where near mature enough to be by himself. He had a cell phone. He should have called his mother or 911, unless he doesn’t know the phone number. Or he should have run home. Should the mother have been charged with a felony? NO. She should have to take parenting classes and the child needs to be told the proper thing to do if he becomes scared.

    • Denise

      What good is a cell phone if some POS child molester grabs him? It’s a false sense of security and she is deluding herself if she thinks a 7 year-old can defend himself against a guy that outweighs him by at least 100 pounds. Here in Washington state we have over 200 missing children and boys can become victims of sex traffickers just as easily as girls. This isn’t the world we grew up in.

      • Devin

        Yes Denise, because there are creepy sex predators around every corner and in every bush. What good is YOUR cell phone when some POS rapist grabs you and drags you into an alley? You can’t defend yourself against that any more than the 7 year old can. I guess you should never leave your house.

        I hate to break it to you, but this IS the world we grew up in. The world is not markedly different. Our perception of it because we have so much more readily accessible information in real-time is.

        • Jesse Low

          You hit it right on the head. That is the funny thing about when WE were kids versus our kids and their up-bringing. Digital media, news, internet. This makes information so easy to access that sometimes you learn things without even looking for them. People have not gotten worse, our eyes are just more open to what is going on around us, than they were 20-30 years ago, which is a good thing. Though when I was a kid 30 years ago, it was normal for ALL parents to allow their kids to go and play anywhere they wanted. No cell phones, no ipad. Street lights were our clock. For those of you who want to condemn this woman for allowing her son to go play by himself need to just police up your own and don’t judge her. She did not break the law and that is what this is about. The problem is that a policeman has the power to unjustly detain an American citizen for NO FAULT. Then press charges against her. SHE DID NOT BREAK THE LAW. Now that is the problem that needs to be addressed here.

  • Cha

    7 year old is too young. If it’s just at the front yard, ok…but out of sight, no way! Maybe the neighborhood is safe but you never know who is in that neighborhood..Some parents just doesn’t think possible danger.

  • Tim

    We live in a society where we base all of our decisions on fear, you all have valid points but, basing decisions on fear is not how we should be showing our kids how to live. As a case by case situation I understand that some 7 yr olds should not be allowed to go to the park by themselves, because of the factors involved including location, maturity of child and so forth. I am also certain that this mother in her own wisdom based her decision to let he child go to the park taking all these factors and many more into consideration before allowing her child to go. Making blanket statements about her being clueless is just being opinionated. We know nothing about where she lives or what she does for a living. Yes there are predators out there and there have always been even when “we were kids” but living in fear of them rather than training our kids how to respond to them is wrong.

  • Paul Macy

    All you people who keep saying “when I was seven I walked 10 miles a day…blah, blah, blah” are clueless. Yes, maybe you did those things, but times have changed and it isn’t safe for a seven year old kid to be that far away unsupervised.

    • grahamkassie

      When I was 7 I did and it was in the late 80s and 90s and crime has actually went down since then. I personally wouldn’t let my 7 year old go to a park half a mile away but there is no law against it.

        • kyle720

          You might want to actually look up some statistics first. Crime today is at 1960s levels. It’s safer now, by FAR. Just because the “news” reports on it more, doesn’t mean it’s increased. Educate yourself, don’t just blindly take what people dish out. (Also vaccines are not bad, the government isn’t trying to put RFID chips in us, sun tan lotion does not cause skin cancer.) Figured you’d want those straightened out too…

    • Jessica

      THNAK YOU!!! I was thinking exact same thing the whole time getting more and more pissed reading these coments from other people. Either they dont have kids or they are terrible parents themselves.

    • Devin

      No Paul, times HAVEN’T changed. Your perception of things have changed because you have more instant access to information than before, but the world is exactly the same as it was before. What, you think child molesters just magically appeared in 1998?: Or that there are more of them now than before (for reasons other than just because the Baby Boomer generation grew up)? Get real. Go back to hiding under your bed and letting others tell you that you should be terrified. It’s the best way for them to convince you that they’re the ones who can protect you.

  • Cindy

    This is NUTS, just NUTS! All this talk about cell phones and video games making kids obese and keeping them indoors instead of outdoors… it’s not the cell phones and it’s not the video games, it’s the parents. It’s not the bad guys, it’s not the pedophiles, it’s the parents. When my children were little, the big thing going around was latch key kids, kids going to first grade with a house key around their neck. Yeah, it happened folks, and it was because both parents were working. Why is it okay for a child to walk home from school, use his/her own house key to gain entrance, call mom or dad at work letting them know they’re safe then proceeding with snack/homework/television/playtime but they can’t go to the park?? What is happening? Our freedom to raise our children with our morals, values and beliefs is being taken away more and more each day. How do we stop this train wreck or are we forced to sit back and let others raise our children? Children are snatched from shopping malls, parking lots, front yards and amusement parks… what’s next? Will we be arrested if our children are alone in our yards? Will we be arrested if our children aren’t on a leash at Disneyland? Will children no longer be allowed at shopping malls? Glad my children are grown… I fear for my grandchildren and their freedom!

  • Ralph

    No matter how safe the neighborhood, a 7 year old CHILD (carrying a cell phone on the street for 10 to 15 minutes). would be an easy target for any criminal element. By the way, let’s start giving NEWBORNS cell phones so that their Moms can leave their baby carriages in front of the store while they shop at the supermarket, to keep in touch, and save any embarrassing crying in the store. As a teacher, we used to notice 4th and 5th graders starting to bring cell phones to school, I guess we are down to 2nd graders now?

    • Devin

      Yes, clearly we have to assume a criminal act will occur every time we leave the house. Here’s your anti-criminal tin-foil hat, Ralph…

  • Ashley

    I’m sure he was fine! It because of crazed parents that police think they have to take action on something this silly. He’s 7, knew where he was going and probably has been going there all summer. She obviously didn’t think it was a bad neighborhood to let her kid walk around alone. I swear most of your kids are going be scared of their shadows from all the coddling that you do. I see no neglect of any sort here.

  • Jamie

    I do agree that this kind of situation has to be assessed on a case-by-case basis as far as prosecution goes. All kids are different. Some are more mature than others, some are more responsible than others. Regardless of this, I do believe that a 7 yr old is too young to go that far away from home, by themselves, to a location filled with people they don’t know. There is no one at this location to look out for him and make sure he stays safe. As far as the phone goes, that’s great and all that he has a phone to let his mom get in touch with him if she needs to, but that’s assuming he still has his phone. A 7 yr old is waaaaaay too easy a target for older bullies or nasty teens that may decide they want to take it from him, twisted pedophiles that may want to kidnapped him and do even worse things to him… What kind of defense do you think this kid can possible have?? He won’t be able to fight any of these kinds of people off by himself!!! All they have to do is follow him until he is somewhat isolated/alone and there is NOTHING he can do but scream… and that’s assuming he hasn’t been knocked out or doesn’t have his mouth covered. I don’t think it’s so much about basing our decisions from FEAR as it is common sense. Parents should use their common sense to decide if their child will be safe or not in a particular situation. If this kid wanted to go to the park and his mom didn’t want to go, then see if some of his friends and their older siblings want to go with him… SOMETHING!!! But you sure as hell don’t send them alone at the age of 7. Those of you posting that you used to do all this stuff all by yourself at similar ages, I’m glad you didn’t have anything happen to you, but that doesn’t mean it was a good decision to let you go off by yourself at those times. NOT a good idea.

  • Autobahn No Limit

    The system is using Americans as bait and revenue generating!

    Police falsely arrested a mother for “child endangerment” after a neighbor reported that she had abandoned her children by letting them ride scooters in the street, the mom claims in court.
    Mom Arrested For Letting Child Play Outside children playing

    This mom took action and rightfully so!

    Tammy Cooper sued her neighbor Shelley Fuller, the city of La Porte Police Department and one unidentified officer, in Federal Court.

    http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/09/07/50051.htm

    • Christine Hoban

      Yeah um the only thing is that it costs a lot of money to sue someone and is an aggravating chore that shouldn’t have to be done if indeed the person has been done wrong. This in no way reflects my opinion of this particular case, as it is just a pesponse to an ‘oh well sue them’ state of mind.

  • Naomi

    I have never let my young children leave our neighborhood alone. I can’t imagine any mom allowing a 7-yr old to walk a 1/2 mile alone to a park unsupervised. I agree with the officers, there are pedophiles and he could seriously injure himself alone and unable to call her for help.

  • Amanda

    I think a lot of parents are completely ignorant now days. Yes seven years old is way too young to be that far away. We dont live in mayberry anymore! Its not called living in fear,its called WATCHING YOUR KIDS! My cousin was 12 years old when she was kidnapped, raped multiple times and murdered. She was 12. Walking to the corner store for a candy bar… it happens, you dont have to live in fear, but you really should take the time out of your day to make sure your children are safe. Or heres a thought, get off your a** , get that pipe outta your mouth and take your little boy to the park!

    • seth

      So she’s a drug addict? You’re a moron, you’ve never lived in mayberry people have been getting raped and murdered since the dawn of time the defense against that isn’t watch your kids like a hawk 24/7 it’s raising your kids to be mature and know how to respond if a potentially dangerous situation were to occur because you won’t be able to watch your kids all day every day.

      • Tina

        My issue is this child did NOT know how to respond to a potentially dangerous situation. He became scared when some one started talking to him so what does he do? He runs to the park to play He did NOT go to the pool to find a worker there to tell them, he did NOT run home, he did NOT take his cell phone out of his pocket to call his mom or 911. He is NOT mature enough to be going to the park by himself.

  • Sherry

    While I would not allow my 7 year old go to the park alone (my personal opinion). How can you arrest someone when there is not a law against it? Our school board states that if you live within a mile of the school then the child has to walk to and from school. No bus is provided, therefore I take and pick up my child from school, we live in a very rural area. In the case of the school board they would allow a child to walk a mile home but this mother cannot allow her child to walk a 1/2 mile to the park to play? I understand that the world is not like it use to be but the government needs to let us be parents! At least she did not leave him in a hot car with no way out.

  • Tim

    When I was 7 my father would let me go to the park by myself. id ride my bike to the ampm to get a chocolate milkshake every time I was there. I honestly thought it was cool no one ever asked me where my parents were. It’s sad that today’s society is so bad everyone is always scared for their children

  • Mikki21

    Now when her son is someone. Victim. She will be on the same news station crying. Talking about he had a cell phone. What is a cell phone going to protect him from. Yall irresponsible and lazy parents going to learn, and yes it would be your fault if your kids get assaulted because you allowed them to go anywhere out of your eye site alone.

  • Robert Curtis

    Because of the punitive nature of the sex offender registry MOST sex crimes now go unreported in order to protect the family unit as a whole from the registry. So, the registry becomes (by default) it’s own worse enemy. TRUTH

  • gravatarfocus

    A felony for this is ridiculous. Yes, I went alone where I wanted to at 7, and yes I realized times have changed. But we also had common sense back in those days and charging this woman with felony neglect is just STUPID. I would happily donate to her legal fund.

  • Rob G

    For all the people on here who think she is somehow endangering her child, that same child has a much better chance of being killed in a car accident, injured or killed in a home that has guns, or accidentally poisoned in the home. According to you, the child should never leaver their room, you better ensure that their room is a safety chamber, fireproof, and guarded 24 hours a day. Quit letting the internet scare the crap out of you, and use common sense. Would I let my 7 year old go to a park if I thought the neighborhood was dangerous, no, but the majority of the US is safe for our children. As many have stated before, crime is down, has been going down for years, and all it would take is a few minutes of your time to research the stats. Your 16 year old that you let drive in a vehicle is in much more danger than that 7 year old.


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