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Fair Lawn-Saddle Brook Follows: The Case of Natalie Akselrod

"Fair Lawn-Saddle Brook Follows," is a new weekly column where we'll take Fair Lawn-Saddle Brook readers' lingering or long sought questions about their communities and find an answer.

If you've got a burning question about Fair Lawn or Saddle Brook -- no matter how great or small -- we're here to find you an answer. It could be something peculiar you've always wondered about, a rumor you want to confirm or a follow-up to a story that we've covered here in the past. "Fair Lawn-Saddle Brook Follows" is here to answer those fleeting questions you've been bottling up inside so you can have some peace of mind!

If you have a question for Fair Lawn-Saddle Brook Follows, email me at zak.koeske@patch.com or pose your question in the comments. I'll respond to one question per week.

We'll begin this week with a follow-up to a story that made national headlines last year.

Fair Lawn mother Natalie Akselrod was arrested and charged with child endangerment last May after she left her two infant children unattended in a running minivan while she ran in to the Radburn CVS to fill a prescription for one of them.

While Akselrod was inside, the minivan -- which had been left in neutral -- rolled backwards out of its spot and into parking lot traffic, grazing a car behind it. When the woman whose car was hit stepped out of her vehicle to inspect the van, she found no driver inside – just two babies – and yelled for someone to call the police.

Police arrested Akselrod at the scene and notified the Division of Youth and Family Services. She was charged with child endangerment, which carries up to a 10-year prison sentence and $150,000 in fines.

Two days later, Akselrod pleaded not guilty to the charges in municipal court and the judge sent the case up to the Bergen County prosecutor's office.

That's where Patch and every other news organization that covered the story left it.

So what ultimately happened?

In September 2012, Akselrod waived her right to a trial by jury and accepted a pretrial intervention on fourth-degree child abuse and neglect charges, which carry no jail time.

Per the agreement, Akselrod must pay $125 in fines and complete a 12-month PTI program that requires her to receive psychiatric counseling or take parenting classes. She is permitted to have contact with her children. Akselrod's criminal record will be expunged if she completes the program.

James Kleimann contributed to this report

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Mark C. February 18, 2013 at 05:44 PM
Thanks for the update Zak. Was wondering how about a follow up. I like the new Q&A format your trying.
FairLawn Resident February 19, 2013 at 11:27 PM
Wow! That's it???? Seems like she is getting off easy! I hate to think about what else will happen to her children under her supervision! My children are 8 and 10 and I still don't leave them alone in the car! You never know what can happen, too many variables in this crazy world we live in (car jackings, kidnappings, car accident etc...) I would never be able to live with myself knowing my laziness to take my kids into the store with me caused their harm. That's the bottom line, parents are lazy and leave their kids in the car because they don't want to carry in the baby seat or take out a stroller if they have multiple children. Maybe people should think if they are responsible enough and willing to make sacrifices before they decide to have multiple children! Agree or Disagree. Just my point of view and we are all entitled to that.
Jenne February 20, 2013 at 01:53 AM
Statistics show that carjackings of cars with locked doors and someone inside are very rare generally, as are stranger kidnappings of children. Statistics also show that people are more likely to be harmed in a car accident as a pedestrian or in a moving vehicle than in one in a parking lot. Certainly if your children at that age are not mature enough to be left unsupervised for even a few minutes safely, it's wise to keep them under your eye at all times-- however many third and fifth graders are developmentally mature to not need 24/7 supervision.
BellairBerdan February 20, 2013 at 02:57 AM
Jenne, children of that age are also precocious and curious about cars and driving. It doesn't take much for one to start randomly pulling levers, release the parking brake and put the car into neutral, to send it rolling as Akselrod's car did. Hopefully it will not run over a pedestrian if it happens.
CC February 20, 2013 at 12:14 PM
BellairBerdan / CC they were INFANTS strapped into car seats. In all of history, how many INFANTS have unbuckled their harness and spontaneous learned to crawl into the driver seat of a minivan?
BellairBerdan February 20, 2013 at 04:05 PM
CC the discussion was about an 8 and 10 year old.
FairLawn Resident February 20, 2013 at 07:55 PM
Ha Ha Jenne obviously you are not a parent or one of the lazy ones that makes excuses for leaving their children in the car alone. God Bless you and your children if you have any.
FairLawn Resident February 20, 2013 at 07:58 PM
no matter how you try to sugar coat it, the mother should not have left her infant children in the car alone and should be held accountable for her actions.
Jenne February 28, 2013 at 04:28 PM
Fair Lawn Resident-- the town's and State's Department of Education believes 8 and 10 year olds are mature enough to walk to school. I'm pleased that the Fair Lawn library considers them old enough to visit the library. Teaching your kids how to navigate the world safely -- cross streets, keep the car doors locked, don't mess with equipment you don't understand-- at appropriate ages isn't easy or simple, any more than teaching them how to do laundry or cook a simple meal is easy. But it's part of the experience of raising children. We may disagree on what the appropriate age for a particular child is to learn a particular skill, but we all have to teach our children.
Jenne February 28, 2013 at 04:37 PM
"In September 2012, Akselrod waived her right to a trial by jury and accepted a pretrial intervention on fourth-degree child abuse and neglect charges, which carry no jail time. Per the agreement, Akselrod must pay $125 in fines and complete a 12-month PTI program that requires her to receive psychiatric counseling or take parenting classes. She is permitted to have contact with her children. Akselrod's criminal record will be expunged if she completes the program." How is that not being held accountable?
FairLawn Resident March 01, 2013 at 12:49 AM
Did you also read the reports saying the doors weren't even locked on her vehicle? The driver who got hit by Akselrod's car went up to the vehicle and saw there was no driver, opened the door and saw the babies in the vehicle. Also a witness saw her in the CVS, heard them tell her their computers were down and it would be a while to fill her prescription, she said ok and waited. She appeared to be in no hurry to get back to her children in the vehicle. BTW isn't there a CVS with a drive through in FairLawn??? Is Akselrod still able to keep her job in the public school system working with special education students? I don't see how she can be of much help to these children when she can't even take care of her own.
FairLawn Resident March 01, 2013 at 01:02 AM
So she only has to pay $125 in fines, mandatory counseling/parenting services ( which she obviously needs) , and there will be nothing permanently on her record. I guess that answers the question if she is still allowed to work with children. Scary thought! I guess I better make sure I know all the names of my children's teacher aids at school. Maybe the public school system should not be out sourcing jobs like hers. Because I know for a fact being a CERTIFIED public school teacher that is not from an out sourced company (like Axselrod is), they require finger printing and back round checks on ALL school personnel. They would not allow someone charged with child endangerment to work with children. I guess this all wouldn't matter though because nothing will show on her record because she pleaded not guilty and got a slap on the hand. Amazing she gets to go back to her normal life, thank God her children were not injured and are too young to remember this experience.
FairLawn Resident March 01, 2013 at 01:08 AM
JENNE - I guess you weren't around NJ in the months of Sept - Oct 2012. Any idea of how many attempted child abductions were reported? And the majority of them were Middle School age. Maybe you should get your facts straight about what the State dept. of Education "believes" because I know the Fair Lawn school district and Police Department recommended NO Elementary students walk to or from school without adult supervision.

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