A teenager lived undetected for two days at a 24-hour Walmart in Texas after running away from his aunt's home, police said Wednesday.
A store employee in Corsicana, about 50 miles south of Dallas, eventually discovered the 14-year-old boy when he was spotted stepping out from behind some boxes in the baby apparel aisle.
When the employee at the Supercenter pushed aside the boxes, a number of items were found indicating the teen had been staying awhile, Walmart spokesman Brian Nick said.
"Normally if there's a child missing in a store we're actively looking for that child," Nick said. But it's a different matter when employees are unaware a child is missing.
"We just didn't have any knowledge that this child was missing, and certainly not in one of our stores," he said.
Shoppers interviewed by KTVT-TV in Dallas/Fort Worth questioned the quality of security, or lack of it, inside the store:
“If he was able to do that, what about a terrorist?” questions Corsicana resident Betty Ary.
“Today’s predators, you never know, they pry on the weak, and they see a 14-year-old child do this,” said Walmart shopper Steve Raney. “Of course there’s a security situation that could be detrimental to your children as well.
A teenager walking about a Walmart wouldn't have caught an employee's attention, Nick said, particularly in a Supercenter that's at least 200,000 square feet with thousands of customers coming and going.
The boy pilfered food and drinks from the store and changed clothes periodically to avoid detection, KTVT-TV in Dallas/Fort Worth reported.
Corsicana police in a statement Wednesday said the boy's parents were out of town and he was staying with his aunt in Corsicana when he ran away July 28. He was found two days later at the store. Nick said he left the store when the employee spotted him, and Corsicana police found him outside.
The teen, from nearby Rice, has a history of running away, tending to hide in abandoned homes and businesses, police said.
Walmart doesn't intend to seek charges against the teen, Nick said.
The teenager's actions are reminiscent of the 2000 movie "Where the Heart is," in which Natalie Portman plays a 17-year old pregnant girl who's abandoned by her boyfriend. She secretly lives in a Walmart for six weeks until the baby is born.