Jun. 23—A Pottsville woman has been charged with child endangerment after police said she left four children unattended in a car on a warm afternoon while she went inside a Hamburg-area shopping center.
Victoria D. Tucker, 32, was taken into custody Wednesday by Berks County deputy sheriffs on a warrant from Tilden Township police.
Following arraignment before District Judge Alvin B. Robinson In Reading Central Court, Tucker was free to await a hearing on four counts each of child endangerment, transporting children without required child booster seats and driving under a suspended or revoked license.
Tilden police gave this account in court papers:
On June 2 about 5:30 p.m. Officer Frank Cataldi responded to the Lowe’s parking lot off Route 61 after someone reported four small children were left unattended in a car. The person said the children were alone in the car for about 20 minutes.
She directed Cataldi to the sedan in the middle row of the lot, where he found four children who appeared to be between the ages of 4 and 11 in the back seat. The front windows were up completely and the back windows were one-quarter of the way down.
The engine and air conditioning weren’t in operation, and the outside temperature at the time was 82 degrees.
The children appeared to be extremely hot and fatigued. They were sweating, and three of them were shirtless. Cataldi also noted there were no child safety seats in the vehicle.
Cataldi asked one of the children where their parents were and he said they were in the store. At that time, a man and a woman approached Cataldi and asked why he was there.
The woman identified herself as Victoria Tucker. He asked for her identification, but she said, “I have nothing to give you but my name.” She eventually provided her date of birth, telling the officer he could look up the rest of her information by running her vehicle registration plate. She took the children into the store.
Cataldi ran her name in a PennDOT database and learned her driver’s license was suspended and there were numerous scofflaw warrants against her.
Tucker and the man she was with eventually left the store.
Cataldi told Tucker that her license was suspended. He also said she would not be allowed to ride with four children in the back seat, regardless of who was driving, because it was equipped with only three seat belts and no child safety seats.
He told her to call someone who could legally transport the children.
Tucker argued that there was no proof that she had driven the car to the shopping center.
Information on how the children were ultimately transported from the shopping center was unavailable.
As part of the investigation of the allegations, Cataldi requested surveillance footage from Lowe’s. He filed the charge days later after his review of the footage showed Tucker driving the car in the lot and getting out of the driver’s seat. The footage also showed the children were in the car for 18 minutes after Tucker and the man went into the store.
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