FULL STORY: Mother Arrested For Child Abuse After Woman Rescues Child From Car

Shelby Hammitt: 'She wasn't strapped in. She was very soaking wet, very scared.'

A Sioux Falls woman is behind bars after police say she left her toddler unattended in a running car. Police say the child was in the vehicle for at least an hour before a concerned citizen stepped in to help.

Shelby Hammitt was making dinner at her home in northwest Sioux Falls at around 9:30 p.m. when a woman came barging into her apartment.

“She took off her shoes, made herself at home, and then turned and looked at me and said some vulger words and then walked out,” said Hammitt.

Hammitt went to grab her phone to call police, but the woman was gone. She say it wasn’t long after when she heard crying coming from a vehicle in the parking lot. She says a child, around 15 months to 2-years-old was inside. Her parents were nowhere to be found.

“Do I open this vehicle door to get this baby out or do I just call the cops, and wait?” asked Hammitt. “My parent side kicked in.”

The vehicle was running and the driver’s side door unlocked when Hammit says she took the girl from the car and called police.

Hammitt said, “She wasn’t strapped in. She was very soaking wet, very scared. The only thing she had with her was her clothes and a pacifier.”

Hammit says police found the girl’s mother, 30-year-old Constance Fondern, two hours later when she returned to the complex in another vehicle.

“The first thing that came out of her mouth was that’s not my baby,” Hammitt said.

Hammitt says the person with Fondern admitted that it was and provided the name of the child. Hammitt says a relative eventually came to pick her up. By that time, the child had been with Hammitt for around five hours.

“She left with a new pair of jammies and a cup and a belly full of Cheetos,” Hammitt laughed.

Based on how she found the little girl, Hammitt says she didn’t want to give her up.

Hammitt said, “From a parent’s standpoint, it’s bittersweet I guess.”

Hammitt says neighbors saw the car running in the parking lot as early as 4 p.m., so they’re not sure how long the child was actually inside the vehicle.

Police say Hammitt did the right thing.

Officer Sam Clemens said, “They were doing what they should do. It’s better to get the kid to a safe environment rather than run around outside or sit in an unattended running car.”

Fondern is charged with child abuse, sliming, resisting arrest, possession of marijuana and paraphernalia. Police say the woman was intoxicated and tried to resist arrest. They say they also found marijuana residue on a pipe inside her car.

In this case, police charged Fondern with child abuse or neglect. However, police say there is no exact age that restricts parents from leaving their children alone at home or in a vehicle.

“It’s really up the parents, and to figure out what’s right.” Clemens said, “If they’re inside a store shopping for a couple of hours and it’s 80 degrees out, and the car’s not running, it’s hot in there, then there could be some charges.”

They say even if the officers don’t think there’s enough evidence to arrest the parent, they will still do a report and it will go to the Dept. of Social Services and they will follow up on the case.

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