SPRINGFIELD — A 39-year-old Springfield woman was charged with child neglect after leaving her two daughters in a hot, unattended car in a Walmart parking lot Sunday afternoon, police said.
The two girls, ages 5 and 7, were left in Nikia Angelique Modrell’s black Infinity sedan for 25 minutes outside the store on Olympic Street, Springfield police officer Chris Kreiger said. The car had tinted windows that were completely closed, and there was no air conditioning.
Police and paramedics were alerted when passers-by called and reported the incident sometime before 4 p.m.
Ryan Reinsch, who helped report the incident, said he and a female friend noticed the two girls in the car and knocked on the window to see if they were OK. Reinsch said both girls indicated they were fine, but he “didn’t trust the situation because the younger of the two was profusely sweating.”
Modrell arrived about 10 minutes later to let her daughters out of the car, according to Sgt. Keith Seanor. Police officers reviewed surveillance videos from the Walmart parking lot and were able to determine the length of time between Modrell leaving the car and returning.
Upon arrival, medics found one of the girls crying, and both were visibly hot and sweating profusely with flushed red skin. Seanor said one of the girls was wearing fleece pajama pants.
“We had medics come out and do an assessment, and they were clearly very, very hot, and beads of sweat were going down their faces,” Seanor said. “There is no reason. There just isn’t.”
Modrell was charged with two counts of second-degree child neglect and two counts of reckless endangerment, and she was placed in the Springfield Municipal Jail, police said.
Modrell asserted at the scene that she had kept her two daughters in the car because they didn’t have shoes and she was planning to buy a pair at Walmart for each girl and bring them back to the car.
Her daughters were taken to the home of a family member approved by the state Department of Human Services, police said.
Springfield police commended the citizens who first alerted them to the situation.
At the time they reported the incident, the outside temperature was 89 degrees, Kreiger said.
When the outdoor temperature is 90 degrees, the temperature inside a vehicle can climb to 124 degrees in 30 minutes, according to a San Francisco State University study. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the temperature inside a car can climb nearly 20 degrees in just 10 minutes.
Heat stroke is the leading cause of death for children ages 15 or younger in noncrash, vehicle-related incidents, the academy said. On average, 37 children die annually in locked cars in the United States, according to Kids and Cars, a safety organization.
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“We had medics come out and do an assessment, and they were clearly very, very hot … . There is no reason. There just isn’t.”
— Sgt. Keith Seanor, Springfield Police Department