A mother in the US state of Illinois was subjected to a two-year court ordeal after leaving her son unattended in a car for five minutes.
Teacher Kim Brooks momentarily popped into a store to buy her then four-year-old boy a set of headphones to keep him entertained on a plane journey they were due to undertake.
Faced with the prospect of dragging an irritable toddler with her, prolonging what was otherwise a five minute shop, Brooks made a decision that would end up haunting her for years to come.
In her own account of the event, which she has published online, Brooks describes the scenario: “I left him. I told him I'd be right back. I cracked the windows and child-locked the doors and double-clicked my keys so that the car alarm was set. And then I left him in the car for about five minutes.
“He didn't die. He wasn't kidnapped or assaulted or forgotten or dragged across state lines by a carjacker.
“When I returned to the car, he was still playing his game, smiling, or more likely smirking at having gotten what he wanted from his spineless mama. I tossed the headphones onto the passenger seat and put the keys in the ignition.”
Thinking nothing more of it, she then took her children to the airport and got on a flight home. It wasn’t until she was collected by her husband that she became aware of the trouble that was brewing.
“My husband was waiting for us beside the baggage claim with this terrible look on his face,” she said. " ‘Call your mom,’ he said.”
“He didn't die. He wasn't kidnapped or assaulted or forgotten or dragged across state lines by a carjacker."
“I called her, and she was crying. When she'd arrived home from driving us to the airport, there was a police car in her driveway.”
Unbeknownst to her, Brooks was spotted by a fellow shopper leaving her son in the car, who captured the event on a camera phone and alerted the police.
She hired legal representation, who assured police over the phone that it was a momentary lapse in judgment, but it wasn’t to be the end of the matter.
“Nine months later, a few minutes after dropping my kids off at school, I was walking to a coffee shop when my cellphone rang. Another officer asked if I was Kim Brooks and if I was aware there was a warrant out for my arrest,” she continues.
And so started a terrible ordeal which saw Brooks charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, something which, as a devoted mother, she struggled to get her head around.
“I felt guilty and ashamed. I felt I'd put my child at risk for my own momentary convenience. I knew I wasn't a terrible mother, but I'd done something terrible, dangerous, and now I'd suffer the consequences, go to court, pay legal fees, live with a criminal record. This was how I thought about what had taken place.”
Brooks was advised by her lawyer to plead guilty in court – doing otherwise would have meant she risked losing her children altogether if she’d have lost. She was eventually sentenced to community service, of which she served 100 hours over nine months.
Is what happened to Kim Brooks justified or a situation blown completely out of proportion? Have you ever left your children briefly unattended in a car? Have your say below.