Christine Nunes, 37, pleaded not guilty to reckless endangerment and petit larceny charges. She was ordered held on $50,000 bail after an arraignment before Judge Tricia Ferrell at Nassau First District Court in Hempstead. A court spokesman said federal immigration officials have also notified the court of an “immigration hold,” meaning even if Nunes posted bail, she could not be immediately released.
According to court papers, Nunes left the young girl locked in a car – with the windows closed and the vehicle off – while she went into a Target store at the Broadway Mall in Hicksville. Prosecutors said the 3-year-old was left in the vehicle for more than 35 minutes and said the temperature inside the car was above 100 degrees. A passerby called police and officers found the girl “barely responsive” and covered in sweat, according to a criminal complaint.
As officers were attempting to rescue the young girl, Nunes returned to the vehicle, where police learned she had allegedly stolen $45 in merchandise from the department store, officials said. Court papers say she concealed a bundle of apples and a package of cheese and crackers and left the store without paying for the merchandise. When confronted by police, she allegedly told the officers that she had purchased the items at a different Target store and had forgot to return them.
“My client is a very troubled woman,” Nunes’ defense lawyer, David Ledgin, said. “She wouldn’t hurt a fly knowingly and I think she’s just in a very bad place mentally.” He said she had a history of mental health issues, but wouldn’t elaborate, and told the judge that once she was released, she would “meet with a psychiatrist to have her evaluated immediately.”
Nunes, a mother of four children – ages 5 to 11 – has several prior arrests and is currently on probation for a prior petit larceny conviction, prosecutors and court officials said. Her husband, who attended the court hearing, would not comment. Nunes is due back in court on June 27.