SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -

A woman from Springfield received a 10-year prison sentence on Thursday for stealing a car with two children inside it in March 2013.  The theft triggered an Amber Alert and a citywide search for the missing children.   Neither child was seriously injured.   The attorney for Cynthia Brown, 38, argued for a lighter sentence because his client had a substance abuse problem.

On March 3, 2013, the children’s father, Jerry Blue, took his children to run errands.  He left the children in his vehicle while he ran into a grocery store.  He also left the keys in the ignition.

Blue was only in the store for a few minutes when he returned to the parking lot to see Brown enter his vehicle and drive off the lot.  She drove erratically and side-swiped a parked car and then left the scene of that accident before dropping off the toddler in a residential neighborhood.

A woman found the 4-year- old boy about 30 minutes after he had been taken.  He approached the woman in the 800 block of South Newton Avenue and asked if he could stay with her.  He told the woman that a woman had taken him and his sister.  He told the witness that the woman dropped him off but kept his sister.  That witness immediately alerted police

A relative of Blue found the 14-month-old girl almost seven hours after her brother had been found.  She was in the abandoned car in the parking lot of an apartment complex on West Mount Vernon Street.  Officers who arrived on scene noted that the temperature was only 29 degrees and the car was covered in frost.  Despite the temperature and the amount of time she was alone, she was unharmed.

The investigation determined Brown was not aware children were in the vehicle when she stole the car. She discovered the children in the backseat only after she had driven away from the grocery store.

Brown pleaded guilty last Nov. 22 to two counts of first-degree child endangerment for abandoning the children, first-degree tampering for stealing the vehicle, and leaving the scene of an accident.  Circuit Judge Tom Mountjoy determined Brown is a prior and persistent felony offender with convictions for possession of a controlled substance and driving while intoxicated with a child under 15 years of age.

Mountjoy gave Brown a 10-year prison sentence for each count of child endangerment, 10 years for tampering, and 180 days for leaving the scene of an accident.  He denied probation. The sentences are to run concurrently to each other and all existing sentences for a total of 10 years.

At the sentencing hearing, Mountjoy heard arguments from the prosecutor and the defense.  The prosecutor requested a prison sentence of 10 years and noted the severity of the crimes and the manner in which Brown callously and dangerously abandoned the children.  The prosecutor also noted that Brown had options, like calling 911 or leaving the children with a trusted authority, but chose to abandon the children in an effort to conceal her crime.

The defense attorney requested Brown be sentenced to either the 120-day or the one-year state prison substance abuse treatment program.  The defense attorney argued that she had a drug and alcohol problem, and simply needed treatment.

Mountjoy agreed Brown had a drug and alcohol problem but, given that she committed crimes that endangered children, he would not be lenient.  Mountjoy also sentenced Brown to prison on several unrelated crimes of stealing, third-degree assault, second-degree burglary, second-degree sexual misconduct and resisting arrest.

Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson urges people to never leave children alone in a vehicle, even if for a few minutes of time.  As demonstrated by this case, it can take just a matter of moments for something terrible to happen when children are left unsupervised in vehicles.  Luckily, due to the work of Springfield police officers and citizens, these children were recovered unharmed.