A mother who left her 2-year-old son strapped in his car seat while she went into a Redwood City grocery store agreed Wednesday to a plea deal where she faces no more than 30 days in jail, San Mateo County prosecutors said. The child was unharmed.
Barbara Stepaniuk, 32, who has been in jail since her arrest Aug. 30, entered the plea to one count of misdemeanor child endangerment and was ordered released pending sentencing on Nov. 24 in San Mateo County Superior Court.
Stepaniuk had faced up to six years in prison if convicted of felony child endangerment as originally charged.
She was arrested after people in the grocery store parking lot heard the boy crying and called police. The boy had been left in the car with one window rolled down about two inches, prosecutors said. A passer-by was able to reach into the window, unlock the door and get the boy out, authorities said. Witnesses said Stepaniuk had been gone for about 20 minutes.
The temperature outside was about 92 degrees. But the temperature inside the car - about five minutes after the doors had been opened - was 125 degrees, prosecutors said.
Stepaniuk told police she had just ducked into the store to buy milk.
"I think she truly thought she would be gone for a few moments and everything would be all right," Assistant District Attorney Morley Pitt said.
Stepaniuk has no record of child abuse or neglect, and the defense produced numerous people who described her as a loving mother, Pitt said.
"I think that she just made a horrible mistake in judgment," Pitt said.