A Henrico mom left her children behind when she went on a trip to Mexico last September, resulting in a conviction this week on three counts of child neglect.
Aida Stovall, 31, was found guilty Thursday of the charges following a bench trial before Henrico Circuit Court Judge John Marshall.
Stacey T. Davenport, an assistant Henrico commonwealth’s attorney, said Stovall asked two neighbors to watch her three daughters. The oldest girl was 11 at the time of the Mexico trip and her twin sisters were 8, the prosecutor said.
Those neighbors told Stovall they would check in periodically, but were adamant they couldn’t stay at the home or be the ones ultimately responsible for taking care of the children, Davenport said.
“Both neighbors testified that they were never asked by Ms. Stovall for their last name or phone number,” Davenport said.
Stovall’s oldest daughter testified that Stovall told her to get up extra early to make sure she and her sisters got breakfast, got dressed and got to the school bus on time, Davenport said.
“She was supposed to cook dinner and make sure everyone ate dinner,” Davenport said of the 11-year-old.
The prosecutor said the judge was particularly struck that the oldest daughter was responsible for giving her twin sisters their medication.
Vincent Robertson, Stovall’s attorney, said Friday that the case involved “very poor judgment” by his client, particularly since Stovall was traveling so far and didn’t know the neighbors very well.
On Sept. 16, Stovall’s 11-year-old daughter told a school official at her middle school that her mother was in Mexico and that she and her younger sisters had been left at home, Henrico police said in an affidavit filed with a search warrant in the case.
The 11-year-old told police her mother left for Mexico on Sept. 14 and was set to return on Sept. 19, police said in the affidavit. The girl told police she was not supposed to tell anyone about the situation, police said in the court papers.
In an interview, Stovall told police that she went to Mexico with her boyfriend, the affidavit said.
Stovall was arrested by U.S. Customs agents when she returned to the U.S. from Mexico, according to police. Davenport said the trip was to Cancun, and that the defendant was arrested when she arrived in Miami.
Robertson stressed that his client had taken steps to ensure people were there to watch her children after they got home from school. The defense attorney added the house was clean and there was plenty of food in the home, Robertson said.
The oldest daughter is now being cared for by her biological father, while the twins are being cared for by a grandparent, Robertson said.
Stovall will be sentenced on Sept. 6. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.