Mother of Boy with Autism Says Needles Were Found in His New Shoes
Richelle Ann White of Ferndale said that on the day after Thanksgiving, she and two of her sons went to Ross Dress for Less on the Broadway Mall. She said left her 17-year-old son, Austin, home. Austin had been saving up money and, with the first check he received from a job stocking shelves, now had enough to purchase a coveted pair of Under Armor shoes. She planned to get the shoes he wanted for him.
White said, “Each [of the boys] picked out a pair of shoes and then one pair for Austin.”
[Below is a video of Austin first posted November 15 beaming as he tells the questioner that he was making his own money and can now buy a pair of shoes he has been wanting.]
According to White, when she got home, she gave Austin the bag containing his shoes. He went into his room to try them on. She followed him soon after and came in as he was tying the last shoe up. There on the floor beside him were two hypodermic needles with what she described as a dark liquid possibly blood in them.White said she became very upset. “Where did these come from?” White said she asked Austin.
He speaks with sign language and has trouble communicating. According to White, “He started getting upset when he saw I was upset.” He wasn’t able to confirm the needles came from the shoe,s but White said she doesn’t know how else they could have gotten in his room. She said she retraced her steps in her mind and couldn’t find any other explanation of how he could have needles in his room.
“The needles came from the shoes,” she said. “I would bet my life.”
At first, she worried about Austin’s safety but she said she examined him and couldn’t find any evidence of a puncture in his feet. If he had been stabbed, she thinks she would have heard him cry out as she was nearby.
“I got a paper towel and took a picture [of the needles,]” she explained. Then she said she put the needles in a bottle and threw it away.Because Austin is autistic and passionate about shoes, particularly these he had been saving money to buy, White said she didn’t want to return the shoes. “[I]f you know anything about autism and being obsessive, it would have been almost tramatizing (sic) to my son to take away the shoes he just got, after waiting forever to get them,” she wrote in a comment on the Facebook post she made about finding the needles.
White believes the shoes are safe. “I went over them with Clorox wipes,” she said.
White doesn’t know how or why the needles ended up in the shoes. She thinks that one possibility is that a drug addict “got paranoid and stashed them.”
She doesn’t blame the store though. “I love Ross!,” she wrote. Austin also loves the store. “This is the 15th to 20th pair of shoes he bought at Ross,” she said.
According to White, she called the store manager at Ross who was very concerned. White said the manager told her that she would do a complete sweep of the store looking for any other problems and thanked her for letting her know.
White said that this could have happened “pretty much anywhere that sells shoes in Eureka.”
This experience she said she had has made White more cautious though. “It will be a long time before I reach blindly for ANYTHING in a public place again…,” she wrote in a comment on her Facebook post.
Although she has some people doubt her account of what happened and that, she said, is stressful, she still thinks it is important to reach out to the community with her story. If the post “prevents just one person from having to go through this[,] it’s worth it,” she said.
Note: we reached out to both the Eureka Ross Dress for Less store and their corporate headquarters in an attempt to confirm details. The first told us to speak to their headquarters. The second did not respond by the time we published this.