Mom leaves infant trapped in baking minivan and goes shopping...claims she "forgot" child was with her

A 38-year-old woman allegedly left a baby boy in a hot minivan in a Kroger store’s parking lot in Knoxville, Tennessee.


                            Mom leaves infant trapped in baking minivan and goes shopping...claims she "forgot" child was with her

The incident occurred outside a Kroger Marketplace in Knoxville, Tennessee. A grocery shopper was shocked by what she saw in a mall parking lot on Saturday evening. An unattended infant was strapped onto a car seat inside a closed minivan with its windows rolled up, reported the New York Post.

Local police reported with a news release posted to Facebook, saying that neither the minivan's engine nor the air conditioning was running while the temperature outside was 90 degrees. The witness immediately dialed 911 and notified the manager of the Kroger Marketplace off Cedar Bluff and Kingston Pike in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

Upon learning the condition of the toddler, the manager ran to the minivan with cold water and towels. Fortunately, the doors of the vehicle were unlocked and he could enter the vehicle easily. At the time, the temperature outside the car was reportedly 90 degrees. According to the American Automobile Association, when it is 90 degrees outside, a vehicle can heat up to 143 degrees.

“The child was crying, had a red face, and was sweating,” the police statement said. “They immediately gave the child water as well as doused the child with the water to cool him down.”

Knoxville police say Claire Huenefeld has been charged with child endangerment.  (Knoxville Police Department)
Knoxville police say Claire Huenefeld has been charged with child endangerment.  (Knoxville Police Department)

The careless owner of the minivan and suspect Claire Huenefeld returned to the vehicle almost 15 minutes later. She told authorities that she had been shopping inside the grocery store and "did not remember she had the child with her," said law enforcement authorities.

It was later found by authorities that the child was temporarily in the foster care of the woman. Officers got the call on Saturday night, Knoxville police wrote on Facebook.

The incident occurred outside a Kroger Marketplace in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The incident occurred outside a Kroger Marketplace in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The parking lot outside Kroger Marketplace in Knoxville. (Knoxville Police Department)
The parking lot outside Kroger Marketplace in Knoxville. (Knoxville Police Department)

“According to witness statements and the investigation, a female spotted the 9-month old male infant strapped in a car seat alone with the windows closed and the engine not running,” police said. 

Law enforcement authorities received the call on Saturday night. (Knoxville Police Department)
Law enforcement authorities received the call on Saturday night. (Knoxville Police Department)

“At the time of the incident the child was in the temporary custody of the foster parent,” they explained. The police arrested 38-year-old Huenefeld at the scene and charged her with one count of child endangerment.

While she was processed and released from  Knox County’s Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility, it was not immediately known if she entered a plea deal or hired an attorney who would speak on her behalf. She has an initial court date set for May 22 for her bonded arraignment.

The minivan in which the toddler was stuck. (Knoxville Police Department)
The minivan in which the toddler was stuck. (Knoxville Police Department)

The toddler was then taken to Children's hospital to receive appropriate treatment and released into the custody of Child Protective Services before they met with the father at the hospital, according to authorities.

According to the responding deputies, the child's condition greatly improved during the ambulance ride to the hospital and doctors said he was alright without any signs of serious issues.

Huenefeld entered the Kroger store around 6:35 p.m. and the toddler was taken out of the vehicle around 6:55 p.m, according to a surveillance footage obtained by the police.