A Frederick woman faces charges after police said she left her four children in a supermarket parking lot on a day when temperatures soared as high as 93 degrees, according to Frederick County District Court files.
Fatimate A. Diallo, 42, of the 8200 block of Waterside Court, was charged Friday with two counts of leaving children under age 8 in an unattended vehicle while she was out of sight. She posted $10,000 bail and was released that day, according to electronic court documents.
According to court documents, Diallo left four children, ages 12, 9, 3 and 2, in a vehicle in the Giant parking lot at 1700 Kingfisher Drive at about 4:25 p.m. July 7. A woman told police she pulled into a spot next to Diallo, who was with the children in the vehicle. The woman and Diallo entered the store around the same time, and when the witness came back out, the children were still alone in the vehicle, according to court documents.
The woman told police the children were “sweating profusely and appeared to be in discomfort,” according to court documents. She asked the children if they were OK, and the oldest responded that their mother would be out in a minute. The witness called police at 4:38 p.m. after she went back into the store to look for Diallo but did not find her.
Frederick Police Officer Ryan Forrest said the children opened the vehicle’s doors for emergency responders. All four were hot and sweaty and were being treated inside an ambulance at 4:54 p.m., Forrest said. That’s the same time that Diallo came out of the store and returned to the children, court documents state.
Diallo told Forrest that she left the vehicle’s windows down and took the keys with her but that the oldest child must have put them back up. When Forrest asked Diallo how the children would be able to raise the electronic windows without keys, the mother got angry and yelled at the eldest child, court documents state.
Diallo refused further medical attention for her children, who were released from the scene, court documents state.
A vehicle heat study done by San Francisco State University’s Department of Geosciences in 2002 showed that it takes only 10 minutes for a car’s interior temperature to rise by 19 degrees. Cracking windows has little effect, and a vehicle’s interior color can play a large role, according to the study. In a blue sedan with gray interior on a day in which temperatures reached the low 90s, it took only about 15 minutes for temperatures to soar to 110 degrees, the study found.
State law says caregivers who leave a child under age 8 alone in a locked dwelling or vehicle can face misdemeanor penalties of up to 30 days’ imprisonment and up to a $500 fine upon conviction unless a “reliable person” who is at least 13 years old remains with the child.
Diallo is a native French speaker, and language differences may have lead to a misunderstanding between what she was trying to explain to police about the doors and windows, her attorney, Dino Flores, said Tuesday. The oldest child, who will turn 13 in September, had the doors open but the 2-year-old keep trying to climb out, Flores said. The children also had water, he added.
“Maybe she made a bad mistake, a bad decision based on faulty understanding of the law,” Flores said.
Flores said the children were in the car for 15 minutes unattended, while court documents state the time was as long as 30 minutes. Child Protective Services has been in touch with the family, Flores said.
“They’re well taken care of, and they’re in a stable and secure home,” Flores said.
A number of stories of children left behind by parents in hot cars have made news this summer, most notably the Georgia case of 22-month-old Cooper Harris. Harris’ father, Justin Ross Harris, 33, has been charged with intentionally leaving his son in his SUV while he worked all day at Home Depot on June 18.
At least 17 children have died this year as the result of being left unattended in or getting into a hot vehicle on his or her own, said Sue Auriemma, a vice president of KidsAndCars.org. There is no way to track how many children or animals get trapped in hot vehicles daily, but the organization offers tips to remind caregivers not to leave loved ones in vehicles. Not only can weather be a factor, but strangulation dangers exist with safety belts, and a child could get out of an unattended vehicle and get lost or struck by another driver, Auriemma said.
“’Not even a minute’ is our mantra,” Auriemma said.
Follow Courtney Mabeus on Twitter: @courtmabeus.