For 90 minutes, the 10-year-old boy sat in Tampa International Airport waiting for a ride that never came.
His mother, Martine Lifleur, took him to the airport on Sept. 1 and left him at the main transfer hub as she took a flight to Fort Lauderdale, said TIA spokeswoman Christine Osborn.
Police arrested her Tuesday and charged her with child neglect.She was released from jail Wednesday.
Her son, Nathaniel Webster III, is now living with his father, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Nate Webster Jr., in Cincinnati, according to his grandmother, Linda Webster.
TIA police say Lifleur, 31, gave her son the car keys and told him to wait there until his grandmother picked him up.
But Webster, in an interview at her Temple Terrace home, said she never got a call from Lifleur that day and went to bed for the night thinking the plan had changed.
"The first call I got was from the airport police," she said.
Lifleur was supposed to swing by Webster's house and pick her up on the way to the airport. Then the grandmother would drive home with the boy and keep him while Lifleur attended a job training seminar in Fort Lauderdale, Webster said.
"I was supposed to be keeping her car in order to transport my grandson back and forth to school that week," she explained.
But she never got a call and her grandson's mother never came to pick her up, she said.
The boy waited for an hour and a half before going to an information desk, Osborn said. Airport officials called police, who called Webster. She asked the police to release her grandson to another family member, her daughter-in law who lives five minutes away from the airport, she said.
"I would have never told her to leave my grandson in an airport by himself," Webster said. "That's a no-no with me. If she had called me, I would have told her to wait or miss the flight until myself or someone else was able to get there."
When he called her from the information kiosk, the boy was bewildered and worried that he had been left behind, she said.
"He asked me why I didn't come to pick him up," and she assured him she would never have left him stranded, Webster said.
Lifleur, of 2526 Cherrywood Hill Drive, No. 209, Brandon, returned from Fort Lauderdale Tuesday morning and was arrested. It was unclear whether she returned on her own or authorities ordered her to return to Tampa, Osborn said.
Lifleur admitted to authorities that the child's grandmother did not know she was to pick the boy up from the airport, Osborn said.
Lifleur couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday night, but Webster said she apologized when she picked her up from Orient Road Jail that morning.
Nathaniel Webster III's future is something that has to be worked out between his parents, Webster said.
"Right now, he's enrolled in school, and he's well taken care of by his father and stepmother," she said. "He's okay."