OGDEN — Family members of the 5-year-old Utah boy who captured the nation’s attention after he was caught driving on I-15 won’t face criminal charges, Weber County’s top prosecutor said Friday.
“We don’t see any evidence of some sort of neglect or anything like that,” said Weber County Attorney Chris Allred. “It looks like the parents were at work and the kid gave his 16-year-old sibling the slip.”
When a Utah Highway Patrol trooper spotted an SUV swerving on southbound I-15 midday Monday, he turned on sirens and lights, believing the person at the wheel was impaired or experiencing a medical emergency. But as the driver’s window lowered, trooper Rick Morgan said he was shocked to see 5-year-old Adrian Zamarripa perched on the edge of the driver’s seat.
Adrian reluctantly told the trooper he was headed to California — with $3 in his wallet — so he could purchase the Lamborghini his mother had refused to buy him. The boy didn’t say how he had learned to drive. He had traveled more than 2 miles before he stopped.
UHP initially suspected Adrian may have cruised around his Ogden neighborhood in the past and said it planned to meet with prosecutors to discuss whether any criminal charges were warranted against the parents. But more digging confirmed the 16-year-old older sister was babysitting while Zamarripa’s mother and father were at work, and the child sneaked out when his caretaker took a nap.
“You can conceive of a circumstance where parents were really neglectful,” Allred said, “but this is not that case.”
On Monday, as Adrian drifted across several lanes without signaling, he clocked in at 32 mph, troopers said. His parents were called to retrieve their uninjured son and the car. They later described their shock and concern to reporters, saying the boy had not taken the wheel in the past.
But Adrian is not the first Weber County youngster to throw the family car into drive and take off.
In 2009, a 7-year-old boy hit the road in Plain City while his parents were still sleeping early on a Sunday morning. When other motorists called to report a reckless driver, two deputies began a low-speed chase and followed the car about half a mile to a home where it lurched to a halt.
“I went to jump out of my vehicle, and all the sudden, this tiny kid just hops out of the car and takes off running for the house,” recalled Steve Haney, one of the deputies and a current investigator in the Weber County Sheriff’s Office. “I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
Haney said news of Adrian’s getaway transported him back to that moment. Several friends texted the former deputy to rib him and see if he’d heard about the latest child driver.
“Thank goodness nobody got hurt, but I can’t imagine a 5-year-old on the freeway,” Haney said. “That’s scary.”