- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - A Williston man is accused of stealing a vehicle with a sleeping 6-year-old girl in the back seat, after the girl’s mother left the keys in the ignition and the engine running while she went shopping.

Authorities said Corey Whitecloud, 27, had been drinking when he took the sport utility vehicle from a grocery store parking lot Sunday evening, without knowing the girl was inside.

He apparently had second thoughts and abandoned the SUV and unharmed child about a mile away, and police tracked the vehicle down calling the child on a cellphone, Sgt. Detective Amy Nickoloff told the Williston Herald (https://bit.ly/2cqx843 ).

“The officer told her to run to the corner of the street and tell him what street sign she saw,” Nickoloff said.

The girl earlier had called her grandmother from inside the SUV.

The girl’s 25-year-old mother had left the keys in the ignition and the vehicle’s engine running while she shopped, according to police. Williams County Social Services officials are investigating, Nickoloff said.

Whitecloud, who has a lengthy criminal history, is charged with felony theft and misdemeanor reckless endangerment and could be sentenced to six years in prison if convicted.

Court documents don’t list an attorney for Whitecloud. An Associated Press call to a telephone listing for him was not answered Wednesday. He’s due in court Oct. 20, and could enter pleas at that time.

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