A couple's attempt to highlight public reaction to child endangerment backfired, their hidden camera social experiment instead led to criminal charges, an investigation and their 3-year-old being taken away from them.
Laura Quijano can be seen on camera explaining the social experiment to her 3-year-old son Leo. The hidden camera experiment involved 28-year-old Boguslaw Matlak placing his son in the trunk of his car to see if bystanders intervened.
“The back of the seat was folded open and my wife was in the car and she was just taking him," Matlak said.
The multi-camera shoot took place outside the Panera bread at the Harlem Irving Plaza in Norridge on Sept. 2.
"I was thinking maybe I should do a video to show people that they should do something about it when they see something wrong, to get involved," Matlak said.
Witnesses called police — and Matlak, despite his explanations, was arrested and charged with child endangerment.
"I was in shock," he said. "I got arrested."
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As a result, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services removed Leo from his parents' custody and placed him with a relative. For the last three weeks, the couple has complied with every request trying to get him back.
"We have provided them with all of the proof that this was not real," Quijano said. "That my son was not in danger."
DCFS investigators even re-enacted the trunk illusion with the young boy at his home.
Rina Infelise, Quijano's attorney, says her client made a mistake but doesn't deserve to be treated like a criminal.
"Anybody can make a poor decision, every error in judgment made by a parent doesn't equal abuse and neglect," Infelise said.
While they say they understand the need for the investigation, Quijano and Matlak say it’s taking too long.
"They are hurting my son emotionally at this point," Quijano said. "He's not home with his parents who love him very much and what else do they want from us? I just don’t understand at this point."
Shortly after NBC 5's inquiries to DCFS, the family was notified that the agency would be returning Leo to their custody.
Matlak still faces one count of misdemeanor child endangerment and is scheduled to appear in court on Friday.