A 5-year-old girl rescued from a hot truck in New Mexico this week told authorities that her parents had locked her in the sweltering vehicle as “punishment” because she would not eat her dinner. Good Samaritans who saw the girl and heard her screams phoned up police, who busted the girl out of the pick-up truck and placed her abusive parents under arrest.
With hot weather upon us, stories of young children and infants being left in baking vehicles, either accidentally or intentionally, are on the increase. Just last week, Justin Harris, a Georgia man, said he “forgot” his infant son was in the back seat of his vehicle while he worked all day, a claim that now appears to be a lie.
The five-year-old New Mexico girl was left Tuesday in an old pickup truck at the Home Depot parking on Eubank Blvd. in Albuquerque, New Mexico. All of the windows were rolled up, and temperatures that day were well into the 90s. Her mom and dad, Angelica Lerma Montoya and Dulces Monge Perez, shopped inside for over an hour. Police said investigators are looking into possible immigration violations for the couple, in addition to their being charged with “child abuse resulting in great bodily harm.”
Their child had already been rescued for 45 minutes before the mother and father bothered to exit the store. They claimed they “did not know” their five-year-old was in the backseat, pleading with them not to leave her in their truck.
Shoppers Sheena Mayorga and her fiancé Hector Ramirez were the first to respond to the girl’s cries. She was “screaming, sweating, unsure, and very scared,” Sheena said.
“We were just trying to calm her down,” the couple's friend John Bodenheimer said, adding that the girl was trying to open and squeeze through the rear window of the truck when the trio arrived.
“A tragedy was prevented today,” commented Albuquerque Police Lt. Eric Jordan.”You shouldn't leave kids, pets, anything in this type of heat without the car running. If you can't bring your children shopping with you, either don't go shopping or leave a responsible person with them at home.”
Lt. Jordan said customers took the girl inside to cool off and give her water before paramedics arrived and took her to the hospital, where she was treated for heat exhaustion.
“I hope they don't get the child back, they don't deserve the child if they're going to be doing that,” Bodenheimer said. “I mean, they were in the store for over an hour. That child could have easily died.”
Bonds were set at $40,000 each; the daughter is being cared for temporarily by New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department. Witnesses say the parents were sobbing while they were placed under arrest.