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VALPARAISO — The mother of a 3-year-old who drowned in a pond Monday night searched for the child at least an hour before calling police, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Tasia Perkins, 32, of Valparaiso, was charged with felony neglect of a dependent Wednesday in Porter Superior Court.

A court hearing has been set for Thursday.

Her daughter, Tamira Billingslea, was found unresponsive in a pond near her home. She was pronounced dead at an area hospital. Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said Wednesday morning autopsy results indicate Tamira Billingslea died of asphyxiation due to drowning.

According to charging information, several residents of the Williamsburg on the Lake apartment complex searched for one to two hours before Perkins notified police.

Neighbors told police they saw Perkins walking around the complex, apparently looking for something she lost. When they inquired, Perkins said she was looking for her daughter, the affidavit said.

Perkins told police she took her daughter to a nearby gas station so Perkins could buy a cigar, the charging information said. She used the full-service lane so she wouldn't have to get out of the car. When she returned home, she got her daughter out of the car, locked the doors manually and the girl was gone when she turned around.

The clerk on duty then told police she didn't see anyone else in the car when Perkins bought the cigar. The child safety seat was empty.

"Perkins confirmed she enlisted the help of her neighbors, and contacted long distance relatives to assist with the search, all the while neglecting to contact authorities," the affidavit said.

Valparaiso police Sgt. Michael Grennes said police are continuing to investigate the case.

Valparaiso police were dispatched at 9:26 p.m. Monday to the 2700 block of Roanoke Court, in the Willamsburg on the Lake apartment complex, after the girl was reported missing, according to a news release. A police K-9 found her unresponsive at 10:12 p.m. in a pond. Valparaiso Fire/EMS staff began medical treatment and took her to Porter Regional Hospital, where she later was pronounced dead.

Perkins gave police inconsistent statements about the amount of time her daughter had been missing before it was reported to police, Grennes said.

Perkins was arrested and booked into Porter County Jail early Tuesday. She remained in jail Wednesday, according to jail records.

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.

Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.