Fayette County

Bed, Bath and Beyond manager pleads not guilty

A Bed, Bath & Beyond manager accused of refusing to help a Danville couple trying to call police about a child they found locked in a hot van in the parking lot pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge.

Elizabeth A. Miller, 34, of Richmond, waived formal arraignment in Fayette District Court Thursday afternoon and was not present when her lawyer entered the plea on her behalf. She is charged with failing to report child dependency, neglect or abuse.

Miller was charged days after a couple found a toddler inside a van in the parking lot of the housewares store on Nicholasville Road.

On Sept. 5, Randy and Nancy Belcher said they noticed there was a boy in the van parked next to their vehicle. The boy did not respond to knocks on the van's windows.

The Belchers thought the child's parent was probably in Bed Bath & Beyond. They went into the store and were referred to Miller, who told the Belchers it was against store policy to get involved with anything happening in the store's parking lot, Randy Belcher says. The Belchers say Miller would not let them use the phone or make an announcement over the store's public-address system to alert the mother or parent that the child was in distress. A corporate spokesman has denied having such a store policy.

The Belchers then returned to their vehicle, got a cell phone and called police. Others in the parking lot also called police.

Police removed Ryan Patel, 3, from the van by breaking the window. He was treated at the scene for dehydration.

His mother, Tanuja Patel, was arrested and charged with first-degree wanton endangerment. She has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Miller is scheduled to return to court at 10 a.m. Oct. 15 for a pretrial conference.