Babies don't go in the trunk. Though that should go without saying, one Broward County, Florida, mother is learning that lesson the hard way. That's where she had a passenger put her 5-month-old baby when she was being pulled over by the police, because she was afraid of getting a ticket for not having a car seat.
Police noticed a vehicle driving at 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning, September 23, with a broken headlight. The Sun Sentinal reports that, as they watched, the vehicle pulled out into an intersection about 15 feet at a red light, then backed up, causing traffic to be disrupted.
The driver of the silver 2005 Dodge Stratus, 19-year-old Breona Watkins, didn't notice the officers until they began to attempt to pull her over. That is when things got really scary. Though she had her baby in the car, she did not have a car seat. The baby had been riding in the lap of Watkins' 14-year-old passenger. She instructed the teen to hide the baby in the trunk through a hole that was in the back seat.
The young mother drove another quarter mile, including going through a green light, before finally pulling over.
Presumably, she believed that the baby would be quiet and the officers wouldn't notice anything out of the ordinary. She was wrong.
Sergeant Thomas Hinton told CBS News that he spent 15 to 20 minutes talking with Watkins and her teenage passenger.
"At no time during that 15-20 minutes when I was out with them did either of them mention that there was a child in the trunk. Sometimes people are hiding contraband or weapons. I've never had anyone hide a baby before."
Deputy Juan Canino checked on the car. That is when he heard a baby crying. Upon investigation, Canino found the baby in the trunk of the car.
"Grabbed the keys, popped it open and geez, I couldn't believe it. There was a tiny, little kid. I was shocked. I was kinda angry, too."
It gets even worse.
The baby was lying in the trunk on top of a large, rusty tire iron, a rusty metal coat hanger, a large pair of bush cutting shears, and a plastic CD case, reports CBS. There were other hazardous items in the trunk as well, including a gas can, a used fuel pump, and plastic bags. Officers reported that the temperature inside the trunk was significantly higher than the temperature outside.
Canino immediately responded by taking care of the baby.
"He was crying, with tears on his face, coming down the side. Seemed like, one, he was hungry and two, he was scared."
Breona Watkins has been charged with child abuse without great bodily harm, resisting an officer without violence, failure to have a child restraint, driving without a license, and three other traffic-related offenses.
When she appeared in court on Wednesday for a custody hearing, she entered the courtroom all smiles. Those smiles were quickly replaced by tears as the hearing went on.
Watkins' grandmother has applied for custody of the baby. She told reporters that Watkins is a "good mother" who just got scared.
"She got frightened and she did what any child would do, because she's still a child. She made a mistake."
Breona Watkins also says that it was just a mistake. But that is not how the Florida Department of Children and Families sees it. She is being held on $7,000 bond.
Watkins is pretty fortunate. The news is full of parents making "mistakes" that result in serious injury or death to their babies. Sadly, there have been no lack of stories involving babies being forgotten in hot cars in summer. The Inquisitr previously reported that one mother forgot that she had put her 5-week-old infant in his car seat, on top of the car. The baby was found in the middle of the road. She was sentenced with 16 years of probation.
Car seat safety is emphasized by hospitals, pediatricians, and even the baby stores where expectant mothers register for their baby showers. It is also the law. A number of charities provide car seats for disadvantaged mothers. It seems unlikely that a mother could be ignorant of the need for a car seat for her baby.
From her attempt to hide her baby in the trunk, it appears that Breona Watkins was at least aware that having her baby in a car seat is the law. She chose to ignore that law. Worse, she shoved her baby into a trunk of a car filled with dangerous items. At five months, most babies are becoming mobile. This could have ended very badly. What do you think that the state of Florida should do about Ms. Watkins, a mother who stuck her child in a dangerous trunk to avoid a ticket?