A Box Elder woman is facing an aggravated child abuse charge after being accused of leaving a two-year-old child in a hot vehicle for more than two hours, according to police reports.
Virginia Wool, 67, is accused of leaving the child in a pickup with no windows open on Monday morning while she received dialysis treatment at the Regional Health Medical Clinic on Flormann Street, the reports say.
Wool told officers she has been the legal guardian of the child since birth because the mother gave birth at the women's prison in Pierre and is now in jail in Sioux Falls, according to the reports. She said she is homeless and lives in the truck and had no one to watch the child during her appointment. She said she thought the child would be able to sleep until 9:30 a.m.
The gender of the child and Wool's relation to the child are unknown.
This is a "very serious offense," Magistrate Judge Todd Hyronimus told Wool, who appeared Tuesday at state court in Rapid City via a video feed from the Pennington County Jail. Hyronimus said he was "hesitant" to let Wool out of jail without bond because she has a history of not appearing to court dates, but he decided to do so due to her financial status and need to treat her stage-three kidney failure.
Wool faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
A police officer responded to the clinic at 9:13 a.m. Monday after someone reported seeing a child in the truck, which had been parked since 7 a.m, according to police reports. The child was sitting in the drivers seat and "profusely sweating" with a "distressed look" on their face, the officer wrote. The locked car was not running and no windows were open on the sunny 75-degree day.
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The officer asked someone to distract the child while he broke open the passenger window with his baton. He said he found the child's hair and clothing "soaking wet."
"Being a father, I have never seen my child sweat so bad," he wrote.
The officer gave the child a one-liter bottle. The child "would not let go of me," the officer wrote.
A worker with the Department of Social Services arrived and said her office has an open case with the child's family and had been trying to locate them for a welfare check. She said someone once carved letters into the child's back, and the officer wrote he was able to see the scars.
The child recovered at the emergency room, but a doctor said the child would have died if left in the truck for another hour or two, the reports say. The child was later taken into DSS custody.
"With the weather getting warmer, it’s important to remember that children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles," the police department said in a news release. "Temperatures inside a vehicle can reach life-threatening levels and leaving a window slightly open isn’t enough to reduce the risk."
Those who find people or animals who appear to be in danger inside a hot car should call 911 for emergencies or (605) 394-4131 for non-emergencies.