A mother who walked her eight-year-old son alone half a mile home was horrified after she ended up in jail handcuffed.
Heather Wallace, 37, a licensed teacher and child sleep therapist, was charged with endangering a child — a second-degree felony carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Rather than risk time behind bars, Heather, from Texas, said she admitted to the offense and instead went on a six-month community service program.
But she was forced to quit her job, lost her confidence as a mother and is now banned from working with children.
“It really put us in deep trauma,” Heather told Reason magazine.
The nightmare started one afternoon last October when Heather’s oldest son, Aiden, started throwing a noose as they drove home from karate with his younger brothers Liam and Declan.
Heather said she asked Aiden to get out of the car and walk the half-mile home along a route he knew well with little traffic.
She told the Independent: “When he gets like this, we have our routine, we can’t deal with him.
“He calms down fine after that and we can continue.
“I opened the door and he got out. There was no yelling, no arguing, I know I shouldn’t argue with a child in that state of mind.”
But a neighbor saw Aiden walking home alone and called the police on Heather, she said.
A few minutes later, she said officers stopped and knocked on the front door and questioned her while Aiden was in the back of the squad car.
Heather was arrested, handcuffed and put in the police car in front of her three children.
She said a Texas Child Protective Services social worker arrived and spent some time questioning her about her parenting habits while she was still handcuffed in the back of the car.
“I think they were trying to figure out what to do with me — and whether what I had done was illegal or not,” she said.
Three hours after police showed up on her doorstep, she was taken to the McLennan County Jail and charged with child endangerment – a misdemeanor that carries a mandatory two-year prison sentence.
Heather’s husband, Scott, posted $300 bail the next day to get her released.
And youth services forced the parents to agree to a safety plan – which meant that they were not allowed to be alone with the children.
Until the order was lifted, the children’s grandmothers took turns spending the night in the house.
But two weeks later, child protective services reportedly closed Heather’s case, finding the complaint unfounded.
But she still faced the allegations of child endangerment.
After hiring a lawyer, Heather learned she could face up to 20 years in prison — and agreed to plead guilty to the charge.
I opened the door and he got out. There was no yelling, no arguing, I know I shouldn’t argue with a kid in that state of mind
Instead of being behind bars, she went on a diversion program that saw her work 65 hours at an early childhood center.
But she was not allowed to work there during the week when children were around and had to work weekends to clean and help develop the school curriculum.
Heather also underwent eight random drug tests, which meant leaving her children alone to travel to the testing centers.
After admitting to the charges, she had to quit her job at a sleep consultancy and was also banned from working as a teacher.
Heather and her husband Scott said they were forced to sell their family home to pay legal and medical bills – and that the incident left them with an enormous amount of stress and trauma.
She said that after the indictment she lost faith in her own abilities as a mother.
“It’s all very painful,” she said.
“I know I have to be confident in the parenting decisions I make because I have to make them instead of always worrying about what other people think.”
Heather’s sister, Britt, has set up a GoFundme page to raise money for the struggling family.
To date, more than $22,000 has been raised.
More than 400 people have donated – many said they were “appalled” by the treatment Heather faced.
One donor said, “It probably made me sick to my stomach to hear what this family had to go through, I’m amazed this is even possible – disgraceful!”
Another wrote: “This story enraged me. No human being should be treated like this.”
The Sun has reached out to the Waco Police Department for comment.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services told The Independent they could not comment on specific cases under state law.