YORK – A plea agreement has been reached in a case involving four adults who abandoned five juveniles and six dogs at a gas station in York and then were later caught with methamphetamine in a traffic stop on Interstate 80.
Pablo Recio, 24, of Cathedral City, Calif., appeared for a change of plea hearing in York County District Court.
This was due to a plea agreement reached with the prosecution.
As a result, all the charges against Recio were reduced from felonies to misdemeanors.
This case began when a deputy with the York County Sheriff’s Department saw a vehicle speeding on Interstate 80 and he conducted a traffic stop. In the affidavit, the deputy says the driver (Michael Fortner) did not have any form of identification and indicated he believed his license may have been suspended. The vehicle, a Nissan sedan, was a rental car yet the deputy said the driver could not provide any rental agreement.
The deputy says he asked the driver to step out of the vehicle – and when he opened the driver’s door of the vehicle, he saw a small syringe lying beside the driver’s seat on the floor. The deputy said that based on his training and experience, “this syringe is used for injecting methamphetamine.”
Fortner was then arrested.
Irene Lira, the front seat passenger, was also taken into custody and a search of her purse resulted in the alleged discovery of two small blue bags with a white crystal-like residue inside. The deputy said the substance field tested positive as methamphetamine. He added, in the court affidavit, that he also found in her purse a homemade pipe that is used for the ingestion of methamphetamine.
The remaining two passengers – Recio and Kristin Learned – were also taken into custody and transported to the York County Jail.
Two days later, the York Police Department was dispatched to a hotel in York on the report that five children – ages 17, 16, 12, seven and three months – had been left abandoned and their parents had been arrested.
The police officer says in his separate affidavit that “upon arrival at the room, I had contact with the children and they told me they had been traveling from California to Minnesota to attend a wedding and their parents had been arrested and that they had been traveling with four adults – Lira, Fortner, Recio and Learned.”
The police officer determined that Lira is the mother of two of the children and grandmother of two of the children; Recio is the father of two of the children; and Learned is the mother of one of the children.
“The children told me that they had been asleep at an unidentified gas station when (one of the children) was called by her mother (Lira) who said they were being pulled over. She later called them from jail to tell them they were being arrested. At this time, the children had been asleep at an unknown gas station.” He added that all this had happened to the children, at the gas station, in the middle of the night.
The police officer says a staff member at the hotel had explained that the children went to that lodging property and she received a call from a woman who asked her to give the children a hotel room and another woman would call and pay for it. The hotel worker said she never received a call to pay for the room, “but she decided that it was in the best interest of the children that she would put them up in a room for their own wellbeing. She said she put the children in a room for one night.
“It is unknown where the children were or what they were doing from the time the adults were arrested and the time they were booked into the hotel.”
The officer says in his affidavit that the older children were caring for the younger children and had been able to get them some food.
The police officer says that when he arrived at the hotel room to talk with the children, “there were dog feces and urine throughout the hotel room,” due to six dogs also being left with the children.
The police officer spoke with the sheriff’s deputy who had earlier arrested the four adults, “and he told me that upon being pulled over, all four adults in the vehicle appeared to be under the influence of some substance and none of the adults told him about the children or their lack of adult supervision.”
Recio was initially charged with five counts of committing child abuse intentionally, Class 3A felonies. Those counts were amended to committing child abuse negligently, Class 1 misdemeanors.
He was also initially charged with possession of a controlled substance, a Class 4 felony, which was amended to attempt of a Class 4 felony, also a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Class 1 misdemeanors carry a possible maximum sentence of one year in jail.
Recio pleaded no contest to the amended charges.
Sentencing for Recio has been scheduled for Feb. 22 at 11 a.m.