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Children endangered by mother's shopping

Any parent in Michigan can probably attest to the pleading and begging that can go on in a department or grocery store when the children are present. "Mom can I have that?" and "I want one of those!" or "I want to go home!" are phrases we may have heard.

As difficult as it may be to shop with children, it is always better than leaving them unattended in the car. Recently a mother left three children in the car while she ran in to buy some items at a Walmart store in Fruitport Township. As a result, the mother is facing criminal charges of child abuse.

The abuse stems from placing the children in danger due to the heat. The temperature at 3:44 pm, when the children were discovered, was 88 degrees Fahrenheit with a heat index of 93 degrees. One of the youngest children, a one year-old, was found slumped over, drooling and non-responsive. The condition of the other one year-old and the seven year-old child was not mentioned.

According to a study by the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, the temperature in a closed car can increase quickly by the following amounts (in Fahrenheit):

  • 19 degrees in 10 minutes
  • 29 degrees in 20 minutes
  • 34 degrees in 30 minutes

This means that if the mother was gone for between 20 and 30 minutes as she stated, the heat inside the car was between 117 and 122 degrees Fahrenheit. For comparisson, that is hotter than a suana.

When the police moved the children to a cool environment, the unresponsive child began to wake up. Emergency personnel determined that the children did not need hospitalization, and so all three children were released to the mother.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has several helpful safety tips for adults to keep in mind:

  • Children's body temperatures can rise up to five times faster than adults.
  • Approximately every 10 days one child dies from heat stroke due to being left in a hot car.
  • Since 1998, 520 children have died due to heatstroke after being left in an unattended car or truck.

The Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office and Children's Protective Services are reviewing the case. There was no mention of any other criminal charges against the mother or any speculation that she is an unfit mother.

Source: mLIVE, "Mother of 3 children left in scorching hot vehicle in Fruitport Township's Walmart parking lot facing criminal charges," Heather Lynn Peters, July 17, 2012

Source: Golden Gate Weather Services, "Hyperthermia Deaths of Children in Vehicles," Jan Null, July 23, 2012

At our Michigan law firm we represent individuals who have been charged with felonies or misdemeanors including the crime of child abuse as described in this post.

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