National News

Police: Woman leaves 5 children unattended in car while working

Posted May 17, 2018 2:05 p.m. EDT

— A 25-year-old Reading woman has been charged with endangering the welfare of children after police say she left her five children unattended in a car while she worked at a Reading-area shopping center.

Ashley Marie DeJesus was charged Saturday after police discovered her five children, ages 8, 7, 5, 2, and 11 months, were left in a locked car in the parking lot of the Broadcasting Square Mall on the 2700 block of Paper Mill Road in Spring Garden Township.

A witness called police at about 5:33 p.m., after noticing the children were alone in the car, according to a criminal complaint filed by detectives from the Berks County District Attorney's Office.

Police located the vehicle, a 2007 GMC Acadia SUV, parked at the far end of a parking lot outside the shopping center, and convinced one of the children to unlock the door, the criminal complaint says. One of the children was crying, and the 11-month-old child - who was still secured in his carseat - was drenched in sweat, according to the criminal complaint.

The children were removed from the car and taken to Reading hospital for further assessment, according to police.

Police eventually located DeJesus, who told them her shift at a clothing store in the mall began at 3:20 p.m. She said she was running late for work and did not have time to drop the children off at a babysitter, so she drove to the shopping center and left the children in the vehicle, the criminal complaint says.

She allegedly told police she believed it was all right to leave them in the car, the criminal complaint says.

In a follow-up interview with police on Monday, DeJesus allegedly told police she had driven the car on a regular basis, despite not having a valid driver's license, according to the criminal complaint. DeJesus also allegedly admitted that she often left the children in her vehicle unattended, the criminal complaint says.

She allegedly told police she parked the vehicle on the far end of the lot so no one would see the children inside, police say.

The temperature in Berks County at the time the children were found was 68 degrees, police say. There was also a a severe thunderstorm warning and a tornado watch in the area at the time, according to police.

The children were later released to their father with a safety plan in place, according to police. The youngest child was found to have an elevated temperature when the children were discovered, but no other injuries were reported.

Police say a doctor at Reading Hospital confirmed that is extremely dangerous to leave five children unattended in a vehicle for any amount of time. With no air circulation in the vehicle, the children were at risk for suffocation, dehydration, and heat stroke, police say.

Bail for DeJesus had not yet been set as of Thursday.