Mount Airy, NC -- Police in Mount Airy have charged a mother with Misdemeanor Child Abuse after her 2-year-old son was found wandering in the streets near their home.
Police estimate the child may have been out for roughly 20 minutes before someone found him.
But Shauna Dean says that could have happened to any mother with a 2-year-old as active as her son Jimmy.
Dean says she's a good mother and has been for almost thirteen years - since having her eldest child.
"This has been hard. It makes me look bad, it makes me feel bad," she said. "I did not intentionally harm my child. My doors were dead-bolted, dead-locked."
The mother of five says she has replayed what happened in her head numerous times since the Tuesday morning incident.
"It could have been horrible," Dean said. "[But] I'm being punished for something that every mother has done."
It was around 10 a.m.
The full-time student had spent all night writing a paper. She also sent four of her children off to school that morning and sat down on the couch to watch cartoons with the youngest - Jimmy.
Dean says she dozed off and woke up 15 minutes later to an empty couch.
"I just panicked," she recalled.
While WFMY News 2 was in the home, the little boy was able to turn the lock, open the door and the locked screen-door.
Police say employees at the Housing Authority down the street found the boy Tuesday morning.
Dean is now charged with child abuse; a misdemeanor under state law.
"The only thing that I did wrong was fall asleep at the wrong time. If it was 4 o'clock in the morning, the situation would have been the exact same. My doors would have been dead-bolted, everyone would have been asleep."
"At this point I don't even want to sleep because I'm afraid something bad is going to happen," said Shauna.
Court records show Dean has never been convicted of a crime. Police say they decided to charge her with misdemeanor child abuse for several reasons; including, the fact that she allegedly told them her child had tried getting out before.
A captain with the police department explains, neglect falls under child abuse in North Carolina. And according to the definitions in the statute, since Dean did not remove the danger, she exposed the child to it.
Dean says she'll consult the Department of Social Services to child-proof her home. She is also considering chain locks for her doors.