A Boise, Idaho, woman was arrested for driving drunk and later charged with leaving her 7-year-old disabled daughter home alone, Kuna, Idaho, police said recently.
A Kuna officer pulled over 47-year-old Deborah Hauens Merritt at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday after the officer observed her SUV swerving in traffic with no taillights, KTVB News reports.
According to the officer’s report, Merrirtt smelled strongly of alcohol and a breathalizer test revealed she had a blood-alcohol level of .303, more than three times the legal limit.
The officer arrested her and took her to the Ada County Jail. During questioning, officers reportedly learned that Merritt’s young daughter, who has Down Syndrome, was home alone.
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Officers visited the house and found the girl there, alone with the family dog. Officers said there was no phone in the house, meaning the girl, who reportedly needs braces to walk and is unable to care for herself, would have had no way to call for help should she have needed it.
Authorities placed the girl in the custody of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Merritt was subsequently charged with felony injury to a child and misdemeanor excessive DUI.
Should she be convicted of the felony charge, she could face 10 years in prison.
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KTVB posted Merritt’s story to its Facebook page.
While some users expressed anger at the mother’s alleged actions, others expressed sorrow and concern for the daughter.
“What is wrong with people? My heart breaks for this little girl,” wrote user Elizabeth Ginn Larson.
Others suggested Merritt might be in need of help.
“I'm not defending this woman's actions by any means, but she is a single mom of a child with special needs,” wrote user Stacy Freeburn Falkner. “Her life is probably incredibly stressful. I hope she can get the counseling/rehab/support she needs to get back on track so she can be the mother her daughter deserves.”
“So sad. Taking care of a child with disabilities is a full time job and then some,” wrote Sharon Whiteaker. “Could be a contributing factor for the alcoholism. Just saying, not defending. Thank you Department of Health and Welfare for saving this precious child. Thank you law enforcement for serving and protecting. You are appreciated.”
A judge set Merritt’s bond at $10,000 on Tuesday. The Ada County Sheriff’s Office website indicates she is no longer in custody at the jail.
Merritt has been barred from unsupervised contact with her daughter while her case is pending.
Photo Credit: Ada County Sheriff’s Office