Affidavit: Heat wasn’t on in car when woman left toddlers inside while drinking at Lawrence bar

photo by: Mike Yoder

The Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St.

A Lawrence mother claimed the engine was running and the heat was on when she left her young children in the backseat of her car to hang out at a bar for a couple of hours during the recent polar vortex.

But Lawrence police said the part of her story about leaving the heat on didn’t add up, according to an affidavit investigators filed in support of the woman’s arrest on child endangerment charges.

The temperature was 5 degrees but with the wind chill felt like minus 14 degrees when Tiara N. Dillon was arrested in the early morning hours of Jan. 30, according to the affidavit.

“It was determined the two children … were left unattended in a vehicle that was not blowing hot air in extremely low temperatures endangering the children’s life and health,” the affidavit said.

Dillon, 26, is charged in Douglas County District Court with two felony counts of aggravated child endangerment and one misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle under the influence. The children, ages 2 and 3, weren’t injured in the incident.

In the affidavit, released by the court to the Journal-World late Friday, the investigating Lawrence police officer provides additional details about the incident. According to the affidavit:

Police went to Playerz Sports Bar, 1910 Haskell Avenue, at about 1:30 a.m. after bar staff reported a woman they’d kicked out was trying to get back in — and that she had two small children in her car and had left them there while she was in the bar.

After seeing the suspect vehicle run a red light a few blocks away, an officer pulled Dillon over and arrested her on suspicion of child endangerment.

Police noted Dillon’s eyes were “droopy and glassy” and on the way to jail she was “talkative,” “carefree” and “did not seem concerned about her children.” At the jail, she passed a breath test and agreed to give a blood test, which police sent for testing.

Dillon told police she was at Playerz for at least two hours, where other patrons bought two drinks for her, and that she left her children sleeping in their car seats with the heater on. She said she checked on them two or three times during the course of the night but that at some point her car had died.

The police officer wrote in the affidavit that when a car needs to be jumped, it’s likely that the engine was turned off with the electricity turned on, causing the battery to drain and the car to die. If the engine isn’t running, no hot air would come out of the heater.

A Playerz employee told police that when Dillon arrived at the bar she refused to serve her because “something was not right” with her.

The employee told police that Dillon had been in the bar at least two hours before she went outside and discovered her car wouldn’t start. While some friends were jump-starting the car, the employee also went outside and saw two small children in the backseat.

Dillon left but returned to the bar about an hour later. According to the affidavit, she told the employee her kids weren’t in her car, but the employee went outside to look and saw them there. Refused service, Dillon left again and was shortly stopped by police.

After allegedly violating her bond conditions less than a day after being released from jail, Dillon was arrested again on Feb. 1. She remained in jail Friday, according to jail records.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd


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