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Verdict rendered in less than one hour

Auburn, Calif.- A 58-year-old Reno woman with a history of leaving her Down Syndrome child behind in stores or letting him wander away has been convicted by a jury for allowing it to happen again.

Mary Ellen Stamps was found guilty of one count of felony child endangerment Tuesday after a five-day trial in Placer County Superior Court in Auburn.

‘It took the jury less than an hour to come back with the verdict,’ prosecutor Estelle Tansey of the Placer County District Attorney’s Office said.

Stamps was charged for a March 25 incident in which she took her boy, then 7, to the Village at Northstar in Lake Tahoe and allowed the youngster, who is nonverbal, to run off unsupervised, Tansey said.

After looking for the boy unsuccessfully, the mother left Northstar to pick up her 14-year-old daughter, who was staying nearby at a home, Tansey said.  She did not notify Northstar security that the boy was lost or missing, she said.

When Stamps returned to Northstar about one to two hours later, she found her son in the care of security officials, who had discovered him running  unsupervised and without identification in an underground parking garage, Tansey said.

‘The child could easily have been killed or seriously injured,’ Tansey said.

The prosecutor said Stamps had previously been fined $115 in Washoe County, Nevada, for leaving the child in a bookstore for about three hours while she went shopping elsewhere.

In addition, Tansey called witnesses to testify about another incident on May 29, 2009, in which the boy wandered away while Stamps was trying on roller blades in a sporting goods store in Reno. The boy was later found across the street in a Sam’s Club parking lot, Tansey said.

According to Tansey, law enforcement officials have suggested to Stamps to consider having the boy wear a GPS tracking device or having identification tags sewn into his clothing.

‘But the evidence shows that she hasn’t done any of these things,’ Tansey said.

Stamps is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 8 before Judge Larry D. Gaddis.

Tansey said Stamps faces a sentence that could range from probation to six years in state prison.

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