Steven Cross, the Lakeville dad found guilty of child neglect for abandoning his son in their foreclosed home, was sentenced Wednesday to two years probation.
Cross must also pay $2,500 in restitution for his extradition from California.
Cross told FOX 9 News he's pleased with the judge's decision, and said he can now work on making amends with his son.
"I'm happy now that I can work on the relationship with my son, and I don't have to spend any more time in jail than I already have," Cross said. "Now, I can get on and focus on my son's needs -- and I can't do that if I were in jail. So, I'm very happy."
Cross, 60, left his 11-year-old son behind with a stack of letters that told the boy to go live with neighbors last summer.
"Steven Cross' actions in abandoning his child showed a callous disregard for his son's well-being," Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said after the verdict in January.
A victim impact statement written by the boy was read aloud in court. It read:
When my dad left me, I felt like my life was over. It was horrible when my dad left. I wish my dad didn't lie to me about my family. I wish I knew I had more family. It was the worst day of my life."
When asked why he told the boy that his mother was dead, Cross said he did it because she had been stripped of her parental rights and he was too young to understand.
"I never said anything bad about his mom and I didn't know quite how to deal with it," Cross said. "The court was saying 'no contact.' I wanted to tell my son, you know, when he was a bit older and could understand it."
Cross has not seen his son since he left him to drive to California, but that will soon change.
In a custody hearing, a separate judge ordered the boy will go to his biological parents. He will move in with his mom for now, and they will work with a therapist before Cross can see him again.
"I gotta tell you, I am so relieved because what I've been wishing for all along is going to happen -- and that is I get to tell my son I'm sorry for all this and all the harm and problems that it's caused," Cross said. "I really ant to be able to tell him that, and I'm so happy it's finally going to be able to happen."
Technically, the pair will have joint custody. The boy had been staying in foster care with his great aunt prior to that hearing.
"The best news is his mom and I, we're getting along now," Cross said. "We'll be able to have a family and he won't be in foster care -- and it's just wonderful."
Financial problems were Cross' main concern when he left on July 18 while his son slept. He left a note for the 11-year-old, urging him to ride his bike to the home of Joanne and John Pahl -- the parents of the boy's best friend -- and stay with them. He also left a letter for the Pahls, asking them to take care of his son.
He was found and arrested 43 days after charges were levied in Cambria, Calif., where he was working in a deli.
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