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Mother leaves child unattended while shopping for second time

Reported by: Jesse Knutson

MECHANICSBURG -- Leaving a child alone in a car, or unattended in a busy place, can be considered child endangerment in the state of Pennsylvania.
But many people think the penalties should be worse for someone who leaves their child in harm's way.

The question of what penalties should be in place comes after a mother left her child alone inside the front door of a Rite Aid on Wertzville Road.

Police allege that on July 30, 29-year-old Nataliya Ward of Enola left her 8-month-old child in a car seat in the vestibule of the store while she went shopping.

And it wasn't the first time. 

When police responded to the store, they learned that Ward had previous been charged with leaving her child unattended -- when she left the then-20-days-old baby in a car while she was shopping.

In that incident, she was charged with a summary offense.

Sean McCormack, chief deputy district attorney for Dauphin County, said, "A parent shouldn't be leaving their child. It's a dangerous situation any time you're leaving your child unattended."

He added that parents have "no excuse" for leaving their children sitting alone.
"There's so many different things that can happen if you're not watching your children," he said. 

Those worst-case scenarios include dying from extreme temperatures in cars or being abducted if the child is left alone in a public place.

"Where you have a second situation where the child's been in danger, the parent hasn't learned the first time," McCormack said.

While McCormack says there is no hard and fast rule for what happens to a parent who leaves a child alone, he says there are plans in place.

"Usually in a situation like this, what Child Protective Services and law enforcement go through is just a situation where there's some type of safety plan put in place, a determination of whether the child is going to be safe," he explained.

Wood is facing a charge of endangering the welfare of children -- which is a summary offense; the same level of charge she faced before.

People who spoke to CBS 21 expressed outrage, and couldn't believe someone would leave a child unattended.

"It's the worst thin you can possibly do for a child," Pam Caserta said. "I would be calling child services, no question."

Many believe the consequences for such a crime should be much worse than they currently are.

"Eventually, it should be removal of the child from the family, definitely a fine, maybe some jail sentence or something," Caserta said. 

McCormack says that anyone who sees a child left alone in a car or in a public place should stay with the child and call police immediately.
 
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