Cocaine

A stock photo of cocaine?

The mother of a 7-year-old Kindergarten student was arrested at his Metairie elementary school after he was found with 4 ounces of cocaine, according to authorities.?

Mari Mejia Zelaya, 25, was taken into custody March 20 at J.C. Ellis Elementary School and booked with possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute and cruelty to a juvenile involving drugs, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office said.

Mejia's son was in class that day when his teacher saw him removing four bags of what appeared to be powder cocaine from his cubby hole, Detective Jeremy Budo testified Wednesday during a hearing in Jefferson Parish Magistrate Court.?

Each of the four bags was tightly wrapped in plastic and contained about 28 grams of the drug, according to Budo.?

When the teacher asked the boy about the bags, he told her they were “something his mommy had forgotten,” Budo testified.?

School officials told investigators that Mejia had actually checked out the boy earlier in the day only to return him to class about 15 minutes later.?

"She said she checked [her son] out of school hoping the bags were still in his backpack," Budo said.?

But by then, the 7-year-old had apparently put the cocaine in his classroom cubby.

"After leaving the school with him and realizing they were no longer in his bag, she sent him back into the school with the intention of having him recover the bags,” Budo said.

The teacher saw the drugs as the child tried to remove them from the cubby, according to authorities.?

Though she first tried to deny knowing about the cocaine, she eventually confessed and admitted to stashing another 4 ounces of the drug in her purse, which she hid under a vehicle when she realized law enforcement had been called to the school, Budo said. Investigators recovered the additional cocaine.?

Mejia told authorities she was holding the drugs for another person to earn money, according to Budo. The sheriff’s office is investigating the claim, but no one else was arrested in the case as of Wednesday, according to Capt. Jason Rivarde, spokesperson for the department.

Jefferson Parish Assistant District Attorney Kellie Rish argued against lowering Mejia's $100,000 bail, noting the mother of two "criminally negligently and then intentionally exposed a 7-year-old and the rest of his classmates to narcotics."

Criminal Commissioner Patricia Joyce agreed, denied a motion to decreased bail, and found that there was enough probable cause to continue holding Mejia at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna.

Jefferson Parish Public Schools said in a statement that no?other students or staff were involved in the incident.?

“Last month, a J.C. Ellis teacher notified school administration out of concern that a student may have brought an illegal substance to school. The administration acted quickly and contacted the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office.

"Our top responsibility is the safety of our students and staff. We take all reports very seriously and follow district policy regarding such situations."

Email Michelle Hunter at mhunter@theadvocate.com or follow her on Twitter, @MichelleHunter.