A Flagstaff mother was arrested on child abuse charges this week for leaving her children alone in a vehicle so she wouldn’t get towed.

The temperature outside was 3 degrees.

According to the Flagstaff Police Department report, an employee of Fast Auto Loans, located at 114 W. Route 66, noticed a pickup truck that did not belong to any customers parked under a shade tree in the company’s parking lot when he arrived at work at about 10:20 a.m. Wednesday. The lot, which is adjacent to the Flagstaff Municipal Court parking lot, has clearly posted signs warning that any vehicles that do not belong to Fast Auto Loans customers will be towed.

The employee was about to have the pickup truck towed when he noticed a baby and a small child were inside the vehicle. He told police he waited for about 20 minutes for the owner of the vehicle to return, but they never did. At that point, he was too worried about the children to continue waiting, so he called the police.

When officers arrived, they found a 7-year-old boy wearing nothing but a T-shirt and jeans crying inside the pickup truck. A 10-month-old baby wrapped in a thin blanket but with head and hands exposed was also inside.

The officer noted that the temperature outside at the time was 3 degrees Fahrenheit. The vehicle was not running, there was no heat source and it was still parked in the shade. When the office opened the car door, which was unlocked, and put his hand on the crying child’s back to comfort him, the boy was cold to the touch.

The child was able to tell police his mother’s name. Officers located her inside the Municipal Courthouse at about 11:30 a.m. – more than an hour after the Fast Auto Loans employee noticed the children alone in the freezing vehicle.

At first, the suspect told police she did not realize her children were still unattended in her truck because their father was supposed to pick them up a few minutes after she arrived at the courthouse. Upon calling her husband, however, officers learned he was unaware that the children were with their mother and believed they were with a babysitter. He was at work and told the police the suspect had never asked him to pick up their children. In fact, he had not spoken to his wife all day.

The suspect also claimed children were not allowed inside the courthouse until an officer informed her there is no such policy at Flagstaff Municipal Court.

Upon further questioning, the suspect admitted that she purposely left her children in the truck because she believed local towing companies would not tow her vehicle from the private lot if they saw that there was a baby inside. She also told police she did not realize she would be in the courthouse for so long.

The 30-year-old suspect, whose name is being withheld to protect the identities of the victims, was arrested and charged with child abuse. She was booked into the Coconino County Detention Facility. The children did not require medical treatment and were released to their father’s custody.

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The reporter can be reached at mmcmanimon@azdailysun.com or 556-2261.

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