PHOENIX — Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is defending a decision to charge a woman with child abuse.
Shanisha Shaine Taylor, 35, is facing two counts of child abuse for allegedly leaving her 2-year-old and 6-month-old sons inside a hot car while she was at a job interview in Scottsdale last month. She claims that she left the kids in there because she had no one to watch them during the interview.
Montgomery said he’s been flooded with calls from people sympathetic to Taylor’s situation, but he’s taking the welfare of the children into account.
“I respect the fact that people want to be heard on what they think should occur in this case, but I’ll point out that not a single communication that has come into this office, as of yet, has at all mentioned the position that those two young children were put in,” Montgomery said. “Everything has focused on the mother [and] understandably so. It seems to be a very compelling human interest story.”
But Montgomery said he’s equally concerned about the circumstances the kids were in.
“The facts here that folks seem to miss, with the communications that I’ve received from the public, is that there was hot air blowing into that car,” Montgomery said. “Detectives were able to determine that temperatures in there could have exceeded 100 degrees in rather quick fashion.
“The six-month old was wearing two different shirts and had a blanket on him, too,” said Montgomery. “They were sweating profusely, and it appeared to the officer that they were in need of immediate attention. The 28-month-old, similarly, appeared to be in a degree of physical distress.”
Montgomery said that at least one of the car’s doors was unlocked and that his office is still questioning parts of Taylor’s story.
“As to whether or not she was truly homeless and had nobody who could have looked after her children, that remains to be confirmed,” he said. “In a Form 4, there was an address for her. There is an indication on that form that she was not homeless.”
The Form 4 is a two-page questionnaire that an arresting officer must submit when someone is booked into a jail.
“As with any case, we’ll take into account all factors and circumstances that need to be addressed, in order to determine how to appropriately resolve a case,” Montgomery said.
He said there are two phases of a criminal prosecution.
“The first one has to deal with whether or not the conduct in question occurred,” Montgomery explained. “The allegations here are that the conduct involved amounted to two charges of Class 3 child abuse.
“The second phase is what’s an appropriate or just resolution, taking into account all of the circumstances with all of the facts that can be established and any information that’s available?” he said.
Montgomery added that just because the prosecution is going forward, it does not mean that Taylor will end up losing her children forever.
“There is no given, fixed resolution here that will result in a prison term and her children removed and her rights severed,” Montgomery said. “That’s not a foregone conclusion nor is that something dictated by the circumstances necessarily, either.”