A Minnesota father accused of abandoning his 11-year-old son after their home went into foreclosure seemed depressed and desperate for work when he applied for a job, so the owners of a coastal California deli hired him to make sandwiches.
Steven Alexander Cross said he'd lost his job and home in Minnesota and was staying with relatives, but he never mentioned the son he left behind, said Doug Lindsay, a co-owner of the Cambria deli, Soto's Market.
"He just seemed like someone who had lost everything in this economy and was down on his luck," Lindsay said by phone Tuesday.
Cross, a 60-year-old architect from Lakeville, Minn., is charged with a gross misdemeanor count of neglect of a child for allegedly abandoning his son while the boy was sleeping, explaining his reasons for leaving in a letter to the boy and instructing him to take another letter to a neighbor's home.
According to police, that neighbor said the boy rode his bike three blocks to her house on July 18 and arrived in tears, handing her the letters. The letter to the boy said: "If this paper is wet it's because I am crying so bad. You know your dad loves you more than anything." It went on to say that there are no jobs for architects and that sheriff's officials were taking the house.
"There are many many great years ahead of you. Not so for me," Cross allegedly wrote, telling his son to take his PlayStation to the neighbor's house. In the other letter, Cross asked his neighbor and her husband to care for his son, police said.
The neighbor, who did not return a message left by The Associated Press, told police that Cross never asked her to take care of the boy. The boy said he didn't notice anything was wrong with his father the night before Cross left.
Clues on Cross's computer indicated he might have been in California, said Lakeville police Capt. John Arvidson. An ex-girlfriend of Cross also received an email from him, sent from a library in Carmel, Calif.
In the email, which was forwarded to police, Cross said he was "scared and hopelessly depressed" and that he probably only had "a couple of days."
Arvidson said authorities then learned Cross might have gotten a job at a deli in Cambria. So a detective began calling every deli in Cambria, until he reached Soto's Market.
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's officials arrested Cross on Monday, and he remained in custody Tuesday, said sheriff's spokesman Rob Bryn.
Cross was scheduled to appear in a California courtroom Wednesday, and he could be back in Minnesota to face the child neglect charge in a matter of days if he doesn't fight extradition, said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom.
Backstrom said the boy was in the custody of child protection services, and was being placed with a relative.
According to court records, Cross was awarded sole physical and legal custody of his son in 2001 when the boy was a year old. The child's mother was given visitation privileges, which were suspended in 2002.
Messages left for the mother on Tuesday were not immediately returned.
Arvidson described the boy as pleasant and well-rounded and said he has a lot of support and friends.
"As we close the books on the criminal investigation, I really think that the young boy and the father are going to have some hurdles to address and overcome," Arvidson said. "It's going to take some time to come to closure on their end."