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Provo mother jailed on child abuse, drug charges after toddler found wandering outside American Fork hotel



PROVO, Utah — A Provo woman was booked into jail Saturday after police say she left her toddler son unattended outside an American Fork hotel, and the child wandered through parking areas and near an unsecured pool.

The officer also wrote in a probable cause statement that a bag of methamphetamine was left behind, in the child’s diaper bag.

Sara Marie Zanger, 31, was booked on suspicion of:

  • Child abuse — inflict serious physical injury recklessly, with domestic violence enhancement, a third-degree felony
  • Reckless endangerment, with domestic violence enhancement, a class A misdemeanor
  • Two counts of possession of a controlled substance schedule l/ll/analog, a class A misdemeanor
  • Use or possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor

The officer’s statement says he was called on Saturday to the Holiday Inn in American Fork.

“The report specified that a toddler was running around the hotel and the parents were not at the hotel,” the probable cause statement says. “The call notes advised further that the mother came into the hotel and dropped him off and then left. I arrived on scene and observed the reporting party (RP) rocking the toddler to comfort him. I found that the RP was a guest at the hotel.”

The reporting person told the officer “she had first seen the child when he ran unattended into the parking lot. The RP advised me the child was given back to the mother (Sara Zanger). The RP advised approximately 10 minutes later the child came into the pool area unattended.”

The reporting person picked up the child and took him to the front desk “to prevent him from falling into the pool and drowning,” the statement says. The woman said she waited with the child for 45 minutes before contacting police.

“When I first arrived on scene, I observed that child was wearing dirty clothes, had bruising on his hands and face,” the officer’s statement says. “I observed what appeared to be a burn on the back of the child’s right hand. While talking to the RP, I observed a stroller and diaper bag in the lobby near the child and RP. The RP advised me that both the stroller and diaper bag belonged to the child’s parents.”

The officer looked through the bag, seeking identification, the statement says.

“In the top front pocket of the diaper bag, I located a small plastic bag with a crystal substance. Through my training and experience as a police officer I recognized this as methamphetamine. The substance later field tested positive for methamphetamine.”

The officer also found diapers and diaper rash medication, and the RP agreed to change the toddler’s diaper. While searching for cleaning wipes in another pocket of the bag, the officer found more syringes, the statement says.

“I called DCFS (child protective services) and reported that I had a child that was left unattended by his parents. I also advised that methamphetamine was found in the child’s diaper bag. DCFS sent out a worker to the scene,” the statement says.

“I waited with the child for approximately 20 minutes before the mother showed up. When the mother (later identified as Sara Zanger) arrived she was carrying food in a to go box and big side bag.

“Because of the methamphetamine, and uncapped needles left with the unattended child, officers did not feel it was safe to give the child to Sara (mother) and instead arrested her.”

More drugs and syringes were found in Zanger’s bag, the probable cause statement says.

“Because of the child’s visible injuries, officers and I examined the child’s body for more injuries,” the officer’s statement says. “On the child’s face I observed bruising on his cheeks and forehead. On the back of the child’s right hand, I observed bruising and what appeared to be a deep, scabbed burn mark, like somebody had burned him with a cigarette. On the child’s left hand, I observed bruising. On both child’s forearms, I observed bruising in the shape of finger marks like somebody had squeezed his arms too tight.

“Because the child’s mother was under arrest and the father was not on scene the child was turned over to Child Services.”

Post Miranda, Zanger told the officer that while he had been waiting with the child, she was in the hotel bathroom, attempting to use meth.

“Sara advised that child’s father was supposed to be watching the child, but she did not know where he went. I asked Sara about the burn on the back of the child’s hand. She advised me that on 4/21/21 she was trying to smoke meth in the hotel bathroom. She advised that she was using a butane torch to heat up the bowl of the glass pipe so she could smoke meth out of it. Sara advised that her child came into the bathroom to find her and she accidently burned his hand with the still very hot torch.”

A urine test showed Zanger tested positive for amphetamine, methamphetamine, and opiates, the statement says. She was booked into the Utah County Jail, where she is being held without bail.