Foster parent arrested after boy left in car in Publix parking lot, Apopka police say
Updated On: Jul 11 2014 06:21:27 PM EDT
Foster children were removed from a woman's home after she left a 15-month-old boy alone in a hot car, according to Apopka police.
Police said the boy was in the vehicle, which had its windows up and the engine turned off, for at least 20 minutes outside the Publix on the 1500 block of Rock Springs Road.
Monique Williams, 53, was arrested on child abuse charges and may have her license revoked by state agencies as the investigation continues.
A Publix employee spotted the boy in the car, and a customer contacted authorities.
"You never leave a child in the vehicle at all," said the Publix customer to a 911 dispatcher after she found the child in the unattended vehicle. "There's a baby in the Jeep, the windows are rolled up and there's nobody in the Jeep. Gosh, I'm just so nervous. Yes, it's child abuse."
Police said Williams has no criminal record, and foster agency Community Based Care of Central Florida said she spent the past year and a half as an otherwise caring mother to three children.
"I ran in and out to get his milk. That's all," Williams told Local 6 cameras.
When asked if the windows were rolled up, she replied, "Yeah, the air conditioning was just turned off."
Police said it was 90 degrees outside at the time and they arrived to find the toddler sweating.
When asked about leaving her foster child in a hot car, she told Local 6, "It was pouring, raining."
Williams said the boy was sick with pink eye, but police said that's no excuse.
"Initially, she wasn't very remorseful about leaving the child in there," said Apopka police Cpt. Randy Fernandez. "Clearly, I wouldn't leave my child who was sick alone in a car. Even healthy, I wouldn't leave them alone in a car."
As police took her to jail, officials said she admitted her mistake and said she regretted what she did. She went on to say she mentors foster parents and knows children can die when left alone in cars. Williams said she had never left a child alone in a car before and would never do it again.
The foster agency said she cleared a background check and has not been in any previous trouble since she became a foster parent a year and a half ago.
The boy has been returned to Department of Children and Families custody, police said.
Williams posted bond and was released from jail early Friday. While being questioned by Local 6 reporter Amaka Ubaka, Williams said she didn't think the boy was in the car for 20 minutes. Apopka police, however, said surveillance video proves otherwise.
Under state law, a child under the age of 6 may not be left unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle for a period in excess of 15 minutes or for any period of time if the motor of the vehicle is running or if the health of the child is in danger.