AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The woman who found a 4-year-old girl wandering alone by an Austintown road says she hopes the child and her mother get the help they need.
It was just another Monday morning for Estella Rhinehart.
“Went to the bank, went to the gas station on New Road, drove down toward the apartments.”
It turned out to be anything but.
“There was a little girl running, not on the road but next to it, and it didn’t look right.”
While driving down New Road with her father around 10:30, Rhinehart saw the girl with no shoes or jacket. She said her motherly instincts kicked in.
“I just kinda called her over to me and said, ‘Hey, come here. What are you doing?'” Rhinehart explained. “She said she was allowed to be outside and her mom doesn’t mind if she was going to play.”
Rhinehart said she desperately tried to help the little girl find her house, but after 20 minutes with no success, she called the police.
“I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt but I mean, after 20 minutes, I expected someone to peek their head out…Nothing. And that was disturbing, that was upsetting.”
Officers said this isn’t the first time this has happened with the girl.
“About six months ago, the child was outside. The mom was out pretty quick, said she just lost sight of her for a minute,” said. “Then one week prior to this time, the child was out wandering and it took about 20 minutes to figure where she lived.”
While Rhinehart does not condone what led up to the little girl walking along the road unsupervised, she feels for the mother at the center of the investigation — 26-year-old Kirsten Adkins.
Rhinehart said she understands both sides of the situation and wishes people would be more compassionate.
“It’s a terrible thing. Something could have happened, but we don’t know her. We don’t know what she’s going through, we don’t know what she’s struggling with.”
Adkins told a judge Wednesday morning that she didn’t put her child in danger and entered a not guilty plea on the child endangering charge.
The 4-year-old is now in her grandmother’s custody.