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Mother Pleads Not Guilty in Case of Child Abandonment

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Reseda woman who allegedly abandoned her 18-month-old child in a discount store pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two counts of felony child abandonment and was released on her own recognizance.

At her arraignment in Van Nuys Municipal Court, Hang Tran, 31, was released after she agreed to continue taking a prescribed medication, to continue seeing a counselor and to continue living with her brother-in-law, who is an assistant pastor at her church.

Tran faces a maximum of three years in jail if she is convicted of child abandonment and child desertion, Deputy Dist. Atty. Leonard Shaffer said.

Shaffer said he consented to Tran’s release because her two children, ages 18 months and 5 months, remain in the custody of the county’s Department of Children’s Services.

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“We agreed to her release because she is not a danger to her children,” Shaffer said.

On Friday, Tran’s 18-month-old daughter, Trinh Tran, was found sleeping in a shopping cart in a store in the Fallbrook Mall. Eight baby bottles filled with milk and several business cards--which police used to trace the toddler’s mother--were also in the cart.

On Sunday, Tran was arrested after services at the First Baptist Church of Reseda.

Jim Gabor, the church’s pastor, said Tran’s brother-in-law, Duc Huynh, contacted police and the Department of Children’s Services on Friday a few hours after Huynh realized that the child was missing.

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Huynh, a Vietnamese immigrant who speaks little English, was told that the child was in protective custody and told to call back after the Labor Day holiday, Gabor said.

“Between language and bureaucratic problems, he couldn’t get through,” Gabor said.

“Sure, there are cultural differences involved,” Shaffer said. “But at this point we have to judge initially within the culture we live. It’s a sad case.”

Tran’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 17.

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