Police: GOP Legislator’s Autistic Young Child Left Unsupervised; Wandered Onto Freeway On-Ramp
A police report reveals that an elected member of the California legislature left his autistic child unattended and unsupervised while playing in the front yard of a family member's home the night of May 11, 2012.
In response to a public information request submitted to the Porterville Police Department by American Children First in which we sought records of any contact between the agency and Assemblyman Devon Mathis, we were provided a "supplemental report" involving an "unattended child." The report can be read in the four-page attachment linked at the bottom of this blog post.
Mathis was elected to the legislature in 2014.
Last month we submitted a letter to the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office requesting an investigation into allegations he sexually assaulted a staffer.
Our request submitted to Porterville PD stemmed from an article in a local newspaper that referenced allegations that Assemblyman Mathis had been the subject of multiple complaints to Child Protective Services. Valley Voice reporter Catherine Doe referenced an incident involving Porterville Police Department as follows:
"On another occasion, the police were called to Mr. Mathis’ home when he was living in Porterville. Mr. Mathis allegedly left his oldest son, who has autism, outside in the front yard alone. The boy was found about two miles away on the highway."
The report for this incident, which can be read at the conclusion of this post, indicates that a Good Samaritan called authorities for help after spotting a young child walking barefoot onto the Highway 65 on-ramp at around 8 PM that evening. A Google search shows that sunset occurred at 7:52 PM that day.
After the officer picked up the child he attempted to locate the boy's address but was unsuccessful. Shortly thereafter, Joan Moorhead called 9-1-1 to report a missing child.
We have learned that Ms. Moorhead is Mathis's aunt and that she would often watch his children. We have also been told that the boy in question was approximately 7 or 8 years old at the time he wandered off.
When the officer returned the boy to the residence located in the 800 block of Tomah Ave, Ms. Moorhead informed the officer that the boy was playing in the front yard unsupervised for 45 to 60 minutes before anyone noticed he was missing. Devon Mathis was also at the residence and informed the officer that he had been bathing one of his other children while the missing boy played outside and wandered off.
It appears that the matter was resolved and closed once the boy had been reunited with his family.
However, as previously mentioned, Doe has reported that there were multiple allegations of child abuse levied against Assemblyman Mathis.
We are still trying to piece together the timelines of these allegations and will report back when we learn more.
Some Questions & Observations
As a parent, I know that even the most diligent and responsible individuals may have children that run off and disappear on them. All parents have probably had their heart drop when they turn around and notice their kid isn't standing next to them at the store or amusement park.
But there are some troubling aspects of this story that seem to merit further investigation.
- Is it ever acceptable to leave a young child with autism to play in the front yard unsupervised for at least 45 minutes and possible much longer?
- What about at dusk/sunset?
- If you do a Google streetview search, you will see that most of the homes on that street (i.e. 800 block of Tomah) are fairly modest with small front yards. How is it that a home with at least two adults present failed to check in on the boy for that lengthy period of time?
- Was Mathis really bathing his other child for 45 minutes or so?
- Why didn't Mathis call 9-1-1 to report his own son missing?
- Was the boy really outside playing or was he kicked out of the house as some sort of punishment and left out there? If the other allegations of child abuse are true, is it a stretch to wonder if the autistic boy frustrated Mathis to the point where he placed him outside to play never thinking that the boy would actually wander off?
To view the incident report in its entirety, please click this link or the image below to read the four page PDF document: