By Shayna Jacobs and Ben Fractenberg
MANHATTAN CRIMINAL COURT — A babysitter accused of snatching a toddler claimed her eight hour disappearance with the child came after she got lost in Central Park.
Beatriz Rios, 46, of Rego Park, Queens, became disoriented after being mugged while taking a walk with 17-month-old Annabelle Ceria, her lawyer Angharad Vaughan said Thursday.
Rios claimed to have handed over jewelry, her wallet, purse and a baby stroller in the robbery. Her attackers then led her into a part of the park she was unfamiliar with and left her with the child, her lawyer said.
She wandered around for hours before returning to the child's East 101st Street home on Wednesday. Ceria's parents had reported her missing after she failed to turn up for a play date at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Rios was ordered held on $10,000 bail bond or $5,000 cash bail at her arraignment Thursday night at Manhattan Criminal Court. Her husband and daughters watched the proceedings.
Prosecutors said the woman told conflicting stories when detectives questioned her after she finally brought the child home.
According to prosecutors, she first said she was robbed and then forced to wander around the park with three assailants for several hours.
But when detectives told her they had videotape of her walking around outside the park with the child, she allegedly changed her story.
"I'm starting to doubt what happened. I'm confused. I'm not even sure I was there," prosecutors said she told the detectives.
But her attorney countered that her confusion was caused by panic as she was questioned.
"Basically, she was accosted by two people. They stole her purse and stroller and she was afraid they were going to take the baby," Vaughan said.
"She's totally lost and freaked out and basically wandering around for hours."
He said she was on the Upper West Side and trying to go back to the girl's home on the Upper East Side. She tried to get on a bus without a Metrocard after telling the driver she was robbed.
"Finally, she manages to find her way back and she gets there and there's police and TV cameras," said Vaughan, who has taken the case free of charge after learning of Rios' plight from a member of the church Rios attends.
"She's a sweet woman who didn't do anything wrong," the lawyer added. "This whole thing should just get dismissed."
Rios was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, unlawful imprisonment and custodial interference, all misdemeanors.
Vaughan denied reports that said Rios was looking for drugs, and described her as a hardworking mother who was loved and appreciated by the Ceria family, for whom she had worked for four years. She also took care of the toddler's older siblings.
The baby's parents, Arthur and Melissa Ceria, did not want to press charges against Rios, said Vaughan.