David Mantor of Maplewood was arrested on suspicion of leaving the little boy in a locked van for more than three hours. The child suffered frostbite.
With his 1½-year-old son in tow, David Mantor left his Maplewood home Wednesday evening, telling his wife he was headed for the grocery store.
Hours later, police say, Mantor's wife bailed him out of jail in western Wisconsin, after he was arrested on suspicion of leaving the little boy in a locked van for more than three hours as he sat in a strip club. Charges are being considered.
The manager at the Cajun Club in Houlton, Wis., called police after a customer noticed a baby strapped in a car seat in the van in the club's parking lot. It was about 30 degrees outside.
The boy, who was wearing a coat, suffered frostbite on his face and other exposed skin, said St. Croix County Sheriff Dennis Hillstead.
Mantor, 45, was arrested about 1:30 a.m. Thursday on suspicion of misdemeanor child neglect, he said.
Authorities took the baby to a hospital in Hudson, Wis., Hillstead said.
The St. Croix County district attorney's office said it is still reviewing the case and hadn't filed charges as of Thursday. Child protection services of Wisconsin and Minnesota will also review the case.
Hospital officials declined to give the child's condition Thursday night.
The boy was awake and responsive when emergency officials found him, Hillstead said.
Temperatures were relatively warm for January, "otherwise we might have a different situation," Hillstead said. The National Weather Service reported a record high of 50 degrees in Houlton during the day Wednesday.
The Mantors' neighbor, Donna Gervais, said she looked after the Mantors' 4-year-old daughter while his wife bailed him out of jail about 2:30 a.m. Thursday.
When he returned, "he was very upset and very near to tears," Gervais said. "All he said is he messed up, and he's so sorry for what happened."
Gervais called the situation shocking, adding that she has never seen her neighbors mistreat their two children or suspected them of doing so.
"I've never seen anything go wrong in that house," Gervais said. "They're very good parents. Those kids are very well-loved."
Gervais said her granddaughter often goes over to the Mantors' home to play with their children under the supervision of Mantor's wife, 32, a stay-at-home mom.
"I don't know what's going on,' she said. "But it's just a fluke that something like this happened."
Club paged van's owner
Hillstead said employees at the Cajun Club told police that Mantor's van had been in the parking lot for more than three hours without anyone going out to it.
Police looked up the van's owner and asked the club to announce Mantor's name over the loudspeaker.
Tess Ross, manager of the Cajun Club, said one of the club's regular customers had left the club for home and heard a baby crying when he walked by the van. The customer went back into the club and whispered to her that he thought there was a baby in a vehicle outside. Ross sent an employee out to confirm that observation, then called police.
"My heart fell when I went out there and saw the little boy crying," said Ross, a mother of four.
Ross said Mantor arrived at the club about 9:30 p.m. and spent his time drinking and watching the strippers. At no time did she see him looking concerned or looking out a window in the front of the club, where the van was parked. "He didn't seem worried or anything," she said. "He just seemed like he was out for a good time. That's why it was baffling when I discovered all this was going on."
The Cajun Club is about 2 miles from Stillwater, just across the St. Croix River, Hillstead said. It's not uncommon for Minnesotans to frequent the club, he said.
According to public records, Mantor has been booked by police more than a dozen times on minor offenses such as traffic violations and disorderly conduct.
Staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report. Courtney Blanchard • 612-673-4921