Screaming 4-Month-Old Girl Rescued From Hot Car by Strangers; NJ Mom Arrested
HOWELL — A Lakewood woman was arrested for child endangerment after allegedly leaving her 4-month-old baby girl unattended in a locked car, for approximately 40 minutes, with temperatures soaring into the 80s.
Karen B. Gruen, 33, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Two people walking past the vehicle, which was parked in the parking lot of Kohl's on Route 9, saw the distressed infant inside the vehicle Monday.
Patrolmen Daniel Scherbinski and Edward Homiek responded to the store at about 1 p.m. after receiving a call regarding a child left unattended in a hot car with the windows and doors closed.
Authorities say prior to the officers' arrival, Steve Eckel, 53, of Jackson, and Sarah Mazzone, 30, of Howell, had been walking past the blue 2006 Nissan Sentra at the same time when they saw the baby girl in the car. The engine was off, the windows were closed and the individuals told police that "the baby appeared to be in a great deal of distress-screaming, crying, bright red and sweating profusely."
"Eckel grabbed a sledgehammer from his vehicle and used it to break the front passenger window of the vehicle and unlock the vehicle. Mazzone and Eckel carried the baby into the air-conditioned Kohl’s vestibule and contacted police," police said in a statement Tuesday.
Eckel and Mazzone did not know each other prior to the incident, according to police. As officers were speaking with them regarding the incident, police saw a woman, later identified as Gruen, approach the car in a panic. Police told her the child was inside the store, where members of the Howell First Aid Squad were providing medical attention.
Gruen was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child. She was later released pending a court date. The child was turned over to her father, who declined additional medial attention for the baby.
Police say the child "was doing much better as a result of the air conditioning" and continued to approve after being fed.
Howell Police Chief Andrew Kudrick credited Eckel and Mazzone for helping save the baby's life. Eckel later posted a picture of himself holding the rescued baby on his Facebook page.
“I recognize the civilians who took immediate action to rescue this child, for they truly saved a life," Kudrick said.