On August 29, a heroic bystander came on the disturbing and potentially deadly sight of a 4-month-old baby locked in a hot car. Allegedly, he had been left there deliberately by his mother, New Jersey teacher Karen Gruen, 33. Of course, the baby’s rescuer knew none of these details at the time; all Steven Eckel knew was that he was looking at a tiny baby in an enclosed vehicle in 90-degree heat parked at a Khol’s department store.
So, Eckel did what needed to be done to save the baby. According to reports, he got the infant of New Jersey teacher Karen Gruen out of the hot vehicle by bashing in the car’s window with a sledgehammer he had in his vehicle. His quick-thinking heroics likely saved the New Jersey infant’s life.
Reportedly, the rescuer was alerted to the presence of New Jersey teacher Karen Gruen’s baby when he heard the tiny child crying. He was assisted in his rescue operation by Sarah Mazzone, another passerby.
“It was a little baby wrapped up in a woolen blanket — crying, sweating, eyes rolling in the back of her head… [it was] well over 120 degrees, just think of what could have happened. [The baby] was sweating, crying, eyes rolling back… I ran around to the other side, caught the edge here, and it just shattered.”
Reportedly, Karen Gruen had left the 4-month-old baby in the car, deliberately, so that she could go inside the Kohl’s store to shop. According to eyewitnesses, the ambient temperature was almost 90 degrees, the baby was wrapped up, the car was not running, and the windows were up. The baby was reportedly left alone in the sweltering car for roughly 40 minutes.
When New Jersey teacher Karen Gruen got back to the vehicle, police had reportedly already arrived and her child was in the custody of first responders inside the Kohl’s store, reports NJ.com. Reportedly, the New Jersey teacher began to panic when she realized that the baby was no longer in the car, but law enforcement told her that the child was being tended to.
Karen Gruen’s occupation wasn’t discovered until days after the incident. Her official job title is “speech therapist,” and she’s employed by Lakewood School District. Or at least she was at the time of the hot car incident. It is unknown whether her employment might be impacted by her current legal troubles.
New Jersey teacher Karen Gruen is facing some serious legal hurdles in her immediate future as a direct result of allegedly deliberately leaving her tiny infant locked in her hot car. She has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a second-degree crime. She is not currently incarcerated, and she was released with nothing but a ticket and summons, but it is as yet unknown how the Lakewood School District will deal with criminal allegations — particularly charges of endangering a child — among its employees.
The case against the New Jersey teacher has been handed off to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, but no dates regarding upcoming court appearances have been made public.
Reportedly, Karen Gruen makes (or made) $57,636 annually as a tenured teacher. Nobody within the school district is commenting on how the hot car incident might impact the New Jersey teacher’s future employment as a speech therapist working with children.
The 4-month-old baby involved in the hot car incident is reportedly in good condition and is expected to fully recover from the trauma of being locked in a hot car by her mother. After she was rescued, the infant wasn’t handed over to Karen Gruen, but was rather turned over to her biological father.
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