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Mother claims tot found in apartment

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SOUTH SALT LAKE — The mother of a red-haired toddler found alone in an empty South Salt Lake apartment Monday showed up Tuesday.

The unidentified woman told police she believed her child was being taken care of overnight by a friend, South Salt Lake Police Sgt. Darin Sweeten said.

The toddler, a girl believed to be 16 to 18 months old, was found about 6 p.m. Monday by a 9-year-old girl, who heard the child crying. The toddler was sitting in a vacant apartment at 3433 S. 200 East. None of the apartment complex residents said they recognized the child, Sweeten said.

Monday night the child was taken into custody by the Division of Child and Family Services and placed in a foster home. DCFS staff planned to meet Wednesday afternoon with the state's guardian ad litem to discuss the child's future, prior to a court custody hearing Thursday, child welfare projects director Abel Ortiz said.

On Tuesday shortly before noon, the mother visited the apartment complex in search of her child. She first approached a television news crew about her daughter's whereabouts, Sweeten said.

The woman told police she thought her daughter was with a friend at a nearby trailer home at 3456 S. 200 East.

"She must have just, apparently, wandered away from the trailer house and ended up a half block away" and across 200 East, Sweeten said of the child.

"We didn't at the time think the girl was able to walk well enough to go that far. It was a vacant apartment. The door was unlocked."

The mother, whose name has not been released, was interviewed by police Tuesday afternoon. Sweeten said she could face a charge of child abuse, a class A misdemeanor.

Police officers kept the girl in their custody until about midnight Monday, thinking someone would call and report her missing, Sweeten said.

When the girl was discovered, she was grubby, with dirt and sand on her face and under her fingernails, Sweeten said. She also appeared to have suffered a sunburn and possibly a heat rash.

Two women, who had recently moved out of the apartment, were initially thought to be connected to the child, but after talking to them, police ruled them out as being involved with the child.