BOARDMAN, Ohio (WYTV) – A shopper at the Target in Boardman found a 4-year-old alone in the parking lot on a bitterly cold evening, and now the girl’s mother is facing charges.
Police also found another child, a 2-year-old boy, in the mother’s car.
They said the temperature outside at that time was just 18 degrees and the wind chill was 5.
It was a sight Adam Thirion didn’t expect Wednesday around 8:45 p.m. – a young girl standing next to an SUV with an alarm going off.
“She was just walking through the cold all by herself, crying, calling for her mom,” he said.
Thirion took the little girl into Target to get warm. He and a friend got her some popcorn at the snack bar to see if she would tell them anything while they waited for police to arrive.
“She had absolutely no idea where her mother was. Couldn’t tell me what store she went into, didn’t know how long she’d been in the car by herself,” Thirion said.
That’s when he said 25-year-old Jonnise Collins, of Austintown, came up to the checkout.
“A lady came up to check out, wasn’t nervous, wasn’t anything, didn’t even know we had her daughter,” Thirion said. “[The girl] stood up, and she actually stood on the chair and she pointed…I asked her, ‘Is that your mom?’ and she told me, ‘Yeah.’”
Surveillance video shows Collins was inside the store for 42 minutes with three other children, according to Boardman Police Detective Rick Balog.
When they went to Collins’ car, police found the 2-year-old boy sitting inside. Police said the car was unlocked and not running.
“Hypothermia can set in in just minutes when it’s as cold as it was last night,” said Stephanie Weigel, the Injury Prevention Coordinator with Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman.
She said extremely cold weather is very dangerous for young kids.
“Really young children…don’t have that thick subcutaneous fat layer that we develop as we get older. Their body temperature drops a lot quicker than adults’ so it’s extremely dangerous to leave them anywhere when the weather’s like this outside.”
Although neither child was hurt, Weigel said it could have been a lot worse.
“[Children] don’t think like we do, so they want to get out of the car. They want to find mom, they’re cold, they’re hungry, they wander. They could be abducted. There’s a lot of dangers associated with leaving a child in the car.”
Collins was arrested and charged with two counts of child endangering.
She pleaded not guilty to her charges Thursday evening and requested a court-appointed attorney. Police released her from custody.
All five children were turned over to their grandmother.