Investigators are looking into how a young boy managed to slip out of a Denton day care center unnoticed, then cross two busy roads and end up a half-mile away at a Hooters restaurant on Tuesday afternoon.
The five-year-old boy walked out of the Imagination Station child care center in the 2300 block of San Jacinto Boulevard near Golden Triangle Mall.
He then crossed busy Dallas Drive to go to a RaceTrac gas station to purchase a soft drink and snacks.
After leaving the station, he ended up in the Hooters parking lot about a half-mile away.
The restaurant's general manager Brian Mason and his employees spotted the child shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday.
"I was pretty impressed that he made it that way without getting hurt," Mason said. "He let us know that he looked both ways before crossing the road, stopped in the middle and then crossed again."
With no chaperone for the boy in sight, Mason called police.
"We kept him in the back coloring and kept him pretty occupied until the police showed up," he said.
Deborah Pugh, the day care owner, said the boy had asked to go to the bathroom before he disappeared. When his father arrived minutes later to pick up the child, workers said they realized the boy was missing.
Pugh said she believes he got out through a fire exit, which, by law, must remain unlocked.
"We are looking into the timeline," said Denton police spokesman Jim Bryan, "but I think the greater concern is the distance that this child went and the timeframe that he was not in the day care."
Despite what happened, some parents told News 8 they still trust the Imagination Station.
"She [Pugh] is a caring woman and I like how she takes the children," said Grace Shotayo, one of the parents. "She really cares for them."
Imagination Station is subject to state inspection every three to five months. According to records, the day care has been cited for at least eight violations since 2006. Two of the citations were for improper supervision; the most recent one was issued in April.
Pugh said this is the first time a child has disappeared while in her care since she opened Imagination Station 13 years ago. She said she plans to install an alarm at the emergency exit, and is now escorting all children to the bathroom.
The five-year-old has not been back to the day care since the incident.
State child care licensing workers and police investigators are looking into the case to determine whether they will take action against the center and its owner.
No time like the youth to start 'em, wouldn't you say?