JOHNSTON, Iowa -- A suburban Des Moines mother has been jailed after she left her four children home alone while she traveled to Europe for a 12-day vacation in Germany, police said Friday.
Johnston police have charged Erin Macke, 30, with four counts of child endangerment and one of transferring a firearm to a person under 21. Police said the latter charge was filed because a firearm was left at home within the children's reach.
Police said Macke tried but failed to make child care arrangements for her children - two aged 12, one 7 and the other 6 - before leaving Sept. 20 for a vacation in Germany. The father of one of the children was called by his child the next day, and he tipped off police that the children had been left unsupervised, Johnston police spokeswoman Janet Wilwerding said Friday.
Johnston police Lt. Tyler Tompkins told CBS affiliate KCCI that Macke's babysitter options all fell through, so she left the two 12-year-olds in charge.
Tompkins told KCCI the children were alone for about 24 hours before officials received the tip. The children told police, "Mom left them and left the country," police said.
"They were concerned, they didn't know, they were confused," Tompkins said of the youngsters. "I mean, we're only talking about 12-year-olds being the adults here."
Officers went to the residence Sept. 21 and called the Iowa Human Services Department, which took custody of the children. They have since been released to the care of relatives, Wilwerding said. Police called Macke in Germany, demanding she return.
She had planned to fly home on Sunday. On the phone, Macke told an officer she didn't see it being a problem, Tompkins told KCCI.
The mother was arrested on her return Thursday. She appeared in court Friday and was being held in the Polk County Jail in lieu of a $9,000 bond, reports KCCI.
A judge reportedly issued a no-contact order, meaning she is not allowed to see her children.
Tompkins told KCCI he'd never seen a case like this.
"We have situations where parents go next door or parents may go out for the night, and while that's not advisable either depending on the age of the children, obviously leaving the country is a totally different situation," Tompkins said. "This, where a parent has left the country and left the kids home alone, I've never heard of it before."