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Mom may face charges after kids left in cold car


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PROVO — A Spanish Fork woman is facing possible misdemeanor charges after a stranger discovered her three children alone in a cold car at the Provo Towne Center.

Jared Bowcutt was walking into the Provo Towne Centre in 10-degree weather when he noticed three boys, ages 8, 6 and 2, sitting alone in a minivan in the parking lot. An hour and 10 minutes later, when he left the mall, he saw the same van — and decided to see if the children were still inside.

"I saw the child was sitting there and the youngest one was crying a little bit, and the older one was sitting in the back hiding a little," he said. "I was pretty shocked that somebody would leave a child that long unattended in that temperature."

Frustrated and worried for the kids, Bowcutt called Provo police.

"They actually found three children in the car, and the 2-year-old was actually cold and crying, so the officers were able to get the child and put the child in their police car to warm him up," said Lt. Mathew Siufanua.

But there was no sign of their mother, even after paging her on the mall's intercom system. She didn't come outside for another 45 minutes — the kids left alone in the cold for at least two hours.

Siufanua said he cannot comment on what the mother, 35, told police, and her name has not been released, pending charges. He did say parents have to be "very careful," because vehicles get cold very quickly.

"They might think their children are secure in that environment; actually, that's not the case," Siufanua said.

Doctor Michael Rhodes warned that even though children may not be exposed to the snow and wind chill, they are still at risk for hypothermia.

Leaving the car running isn't enough:
During winter months, snow can block a car's exhaust pipe, meaning parents who leave the car on for their children to stay warm are still putting them at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.

"The child tied in their carseat, restrictive clothing, all those types of things can actually be risk factors to worsen their chances of hypothermia," he said.

"At the very least, they can educate this mother and parent that it is inappropriate to leave children outside in that kind of weather."

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Sam Penrod

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