Sacramento Mother Faces Child Endangerment Charges for Allowing 4-Year-Old Son to Play Outside Alone

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SACRAMENTO --

A Sacramento mother faces jail time for letting her 4-year-old son play alone at an outdoor playground 120 feet from her front door.

"He was outside and the neighbor called the cops on us," the boy's mother, Sonya Hendren, said.

Hendren told FOX40 her 4-year-old son Tomahawk Hendren displayed signs to her that he ready to have some outdoor time alone. She said he would occasionally go outside, within their gated apartment complex, only to return moments later to tell his mom he was OK.

One of those days, two neighbors say they say Tomahawk playing outside, unattended for about 15 to 20 minutes. They talked to him and asked him to go home, but say he told them he wasn't ready to stop playing yet. They eventually went back in their apartment and called child protective services.

"I just thought she would get a warning, and then she wouldn't let him be out alone again," Sonja Horrell said.

Horrell and her daughter, Brandi, also live at the apartment complex. They said they only called CPS because they were worried about Tomahawk being left unattended and meant the family no harm.

"I'm not mad she has to do things now to teach her, because what if someone did take him?" Brandi Horrell said.

"How would she feel if he was on an AMBER Alert? Then what would she be feeling?" Sonja Horrell said.

"We have a CPS case now, and anytime he's not in my visual sight we're in violation," Sonya Hendren said.

Hendren's attorney, Sacramento-based Alin Cintean, said in order to proceed with the child endangerment and neglect charge, the prosecution would have to prove that Hendren willfully placed Tomahawk in danger.

"If this had happened 20 years ago, we wouldn't be here. There wouldn't be a criminal case filed," Cintean said.

Hendren believes she's being criticized for her free-range parenting style and prides herself on being a mother.

"Of course I love him, I do everything for him. I breastfed for 28 months. I cloth-diapered, you know, obviously I'm avoiding helicopter parenting. I"m doing everything," Hendren said.

Tomahawk said his mom means everything to him.

"I love her like 20 times ... Maybe a thousand," Tomahawk said.

According to Hendren's attorney, she could face a maximum penalty of six months in jail and three years probation.

He said she was offered a reduced sentence of 30 days in jail and one year probation, but she rejected it.