Mother Charged After Unattended Minivan With Two Infants Aboard Rolls Into Traffic

A woman was charged Monday with child endangerment after police said her unattended minivan carrying twin infants rolled out of its parking spot at the Radburn CVS and into parking lot traffic.

Updated Tuesday, May 22, at 2:31 p.m.

A Fair Lawn woman was arrested and charged for allegedly putting her children into harm's way Monday after her unattended minivan carrying her two infant children rolled backwards out of its parking spot at the Radburn CVS and into parking lot traffic,  said. 

Police charged Natalie Akselrod, 35, with child endangerment -- a second degree offense that is punishable by 10 years in prison -- and notified the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), Sgt. James Corcoran said.

A woman who witnessed the frightening scene said she was waiting to take the van’s parking space -- which she believed it was in the process of vacating -- as it began rolling backwards toward her.

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said the van, identified by police as a gray 2003 Honda Odyssey, kept drifting back toward her -- even as she laid on her horn -- until it eventually grazed her bumper.

“I was able to pull away when I realized the car was not stopping,” said the woman, whose car suffered only minimal damage.

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.

Before police arrived, a man removed one of the crying babies to comfort it, the woman said.

Sgt. Corcoran said that when officers arrived on the scene around 2 p.m. Monday, they found two children -- six-month old twins -- left unattended in the vehicle, which was in neutral. The car's neutral status caused it to roll out of its parking spot, Corcoran said.

He said he believed both infants were strapped in to child safety seats, but added that a traffic safety officer on the scene had to make some adjustments to the way the seats were installed.

Akselrod, whom witnesses said had been inside CVS when the car rolled out, was taken into police custody at the scene. Police said they did not know how long the children were left unattended. Both babies were turned over to a party of Akselrod's choosing, Corcoran said, although he did not know the direct relationship.

Corcoran said care and custody of the children will be determined by a DYFS investigation.

Akselrod's lawyer, Stephen E. Schwartz, confirmed the incident in a statement released late Monday night that asked the public not to pass judgment on his client and consider that the incident could have happened to any parent.

"The facts of this case will show what truly happened in the parking lot on Monday May 21, but the most important thing is that the two children are safe and with their mother," the statement reads. "No one got hurt. This is just a nightmare scene, not an example of bad parenting." 

Reached by phone Tuesday, Schwartz said he was still in the process of confirming the facts of the case, but noted that Akselrod was at home with her children and that the facts would eventually confirm his client was a fit parent.

"This was an isolated incident, a blip," he said. "Everything checked out. DYFS was there, they do a very thorough investigation. They looked at the car, they looked at the home and they determined that she could go home and be with her kids."

Schwartz called the current media scrutiny of his client "unfortunate" and said he was confident that when all the facts come to light the situation would appear as much less of a crisis than it is initially being treated.

"The things people say about other people when they don’t even know what happened, it is bothersome, and that’s really going to be her major punishment in this situation," he said. "The comments, the gawkers, and the people looking and judging."


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mushroom May 22, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Every parent has a moment or two of stupid, it comes with having kids.
Chris Antonelli May 22, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Leaving 2 infants in a car does not make for a momentary lapse of judgement. It also does not make her a criminal. It was a dumb and foolish thing to do. I'm sure she's learned her lesson. Let the appropriate agencies do their job, and whatever the outcome is, she will have to deal with it.
The Most Interesting Man in the World May 22, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Dumb...yes, lesson learned...yes, crime...no, government intervention...no. Does punishing the mother in a court of law make a better society...no.
The Most Interesting Man in the World May 22, 2012 at 08:01 PM
With twins she needs an extra pair of hands and eyes, not a twin stroller. I am not stupid, however I do admit to watching an Earnest movie or 2. I am just of the opinion that this is not a crime and does not require government agency intervention. I'm sure it was punishment enough from the feeling she got not seeing her van and kids in the parking space when she walked out the door.
Sheena May 22, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Mei Won Sum had made the comment when the article first came out and the name of the driver had not yet been published.
Me May 22, 2012 at 08:44 PM
"When he leaves his parked car in neutral, it stands still." "He leaves his children in a parked car, because their martial arts skills are better than any car alarm." He is..........The Most Interesting Man in the World.
Dan Dasson May 22, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Saw this woman and attorney interviewed on the news today. Both seem equally clueless as to how dangerous it is to leave babies unattended. They both spouted excuses and lame justification for such negligence. To listen to them both, she had no choice. I hope they throw the book at her. These kids are lucky someone spotted them. And please, someone show the interview to prosecutors!
Put-it-in-Park May 22, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Let me say this, this will not get her the "Mother of the year award"!
Deleted because of harassment May 22, 2012 at 11:03 PM
That she faces 10 years in prison is ridiculous, as is the helicopter mom who apparently believes there is are car burglers in a crowded parking lot waiting to kidnap infants - and since no one also mentioned it, the person that drove behind a moving car in a shopping center deserves at least five years in prison for being singularly stupid, too. She needs some assistance, and i can get she's NOT going to get it from an agency because they are filled with a punishment mentality shown in so many of the comments. I think the remorse she is going to have is ample punishment enough. I've left my empty car in neutral thinking it was in park, as I bet most drivers have - but it's always easier to judge the imperfections of others than to see the universality of them in all.
Tory May 23, 2012 at 01:50 AM
I admit I have left my kids in the car to run into my house and get something, but never in a parking lot. And I have seen a number of individuals leave their kids in the car at that CVS shopping center. I was there once and waited for the mom to come back out while two fairly young kids slept in the back seat. I understand how hard twins must be, I have a lot of moms friends with twins, but you don't leave them unattended. Even if the car hadn't moved she still left her kids unattended to go shopping. You just don't do it.
mike May 23, 2012 at 03:13 AM
The ironic thing is, there is another CVS 5 minutes away with a drive thru pharmacy! The sad thing is, a lot of my friends do what this mom did and for much less important things (dunkin donuts!) -- ihave learned not to judge others - it was pouring that day like crazy and the kids were sick- not a good move on her part but she doesn't deserve 10 yrs
Scott David Lippe MD May 23, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Far too much judgement being passed without anyone knowing more than a brief outline of the situation. Bottom line - a family with no prior issues and a mother who had spent the night in the ER with her child. Not who society needs to worry about or spend time criticizing. Certainly the family has been punished more than enough and it is obvious to anyone that there would never ever be a recurrence of something like that. People need to take a deep breath and imagine if everything they did was splashed on the news - how would they like that?
AK May 23, 2012 at 04:48 AM
John, you have proof that she was going to the Kosher store?
misterman May 23, 2012 at 01:55 PM
@ John why do you assume she was going to Kosher Store? And you are you really going to call it that, its has a name. Food Showcase. She was meet by police after she came out of CVS not the Kosher store. Also who says she went to the pharmacy. You are full of it, not her.
Elizabeth Cox May 23, 2012 at 02:11 PM
when you are a mother of small children who are sick- then you can judge- we are not perfect, never claim to be. we try to always do the right thing by our kids- they from the minute they are born are our reason to live. a tired mother of 6 mos twins who are sick should be cut some slack. she has to live with this on her mind forever- the bottom line is they did not get hurt, no one else got hurt- to take a mother away from her children for 10 years is rediculous- there are people in this world that have murdered, raped and done awful, awwful things and they walk away free. leave this poor mother alone- i hope she reads my post because i would tell her i would come watch her kids for free so she could take a hot shower without worry. we have all done things we are not proud of 7 if you try to say otherwise you are only fooling yourself. get down off your high horse and get a grip with reality!
The Most Interesting Man in the World May 23, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Nowhere in the story does it mention her handing the babies a roast beef sandwich or a watch battery and say chew on this till I get back, so this is not a real possibility. A good job by FLPD would have been to point out the potential danger of the situation she caused, tell her she was fortunate that nothing bad had actually happened, hand the babies back to mommy once she calmed down, then let her go on her way with the lesson learned. This would have been a reasonable response to poor judgement and a subsequent mistake and not the circus that ensued.
Sara May 23, 2012 at 02:42 PM
I can't believe this video is on the front page of CNN.com right now...
misterman May 23, 2012 at 02:49 PM
what cnn do you go to, I don't see it....this is not big news
Tommy P May 23, 2012 at 05:04 PM
How is that any different? Just a few days ago a car was stolen right off a driveway. What would have happened to that mom if you left?
Tommy P May 23, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Many modern vehicles automatically unlock doors in the case of impact for safety reasons. It makes it easier for emergency responders.
Tommy P May 23, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Wendy, was it hot enough for the car to get overheated? The car may have been locked, but that's irrelevant. She did something stupid, but clearly not something that deserves anything more than possibly a ticket and a follow up visit from dyfus. Or do you think we would all be served well by putting her in jail until after the kids 10th birthdays? Surely visiting mom in the slammer can't be good for them.....
CJLA May 23, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Of course, the media left out some of the facts. Evidently, she had spent all night with one of the twins in the ER. He had a bad ear infection. I can relate, as a mother of 10-month old twins, one with chronic ear infections. I've experienced one of those types of nights! And the next morning, of course you're not completely clear-headed. It was the first time her son had slept the whole night and she wanted to just run in for a couple of minutes, turn in the prescription to the pharmacy and then sit in the car while it was filled. She forgot to put the car in PARK and then all hell broke loose! Cut the woman some slack here. I can't believe there are other mothers out there who can't stop for a second and put themselves in her position. Maybe she's new to the area and didn't know about the drive-through CVS locations. That said, I would have made a different choice (brought someone with me to the pharmacy) or called the script into the pharmacy and asked someone else to pick it up for us. But, still, I feel for her. She’s facing 5-10 years in jail, if she’s convicted. That's just wrong!! Why penalize the kids for a momentary lapse in judgement. The guilt that she undoubtedly feels is enough.
Q May 23, 2012 at 09:47 PM
obviously some of you aren't parents. No matter which way you slice the pie....it's irresponsible. What would you think if the car was struck? or the kids were injured? It's only a split second difference. 10 years is steep but she deserves punishment. Drive through or I bet if you called CVS from your cell and told them the situation they would have sent someone out with the Rx.
Concerned Mom May 23, 2012 at 10:16 PM
I just watched this woman being interviewed on television and she is making too light of the incident. The comment that showed her stupidity was when she stated all mothers make mistakes! Speak for yourself because not all mothers leave babies in a car to run an errand and then leave a car in neutral! If you were as tired as your babies then you should have drove home and let someone help you or go to CVS drive thru! Next time you should sit waiting in a car and see how it feels when it suddenly rolls back and you have no control to stop it! That is how a child may feel! A punishment should be given since you didn't put your children's safety first. Stop making excuses and accept your guilty of child endangerment. How would you feel if it was a friend of yours and left your babies in the car to pick up the medicine? Something to think about.....
robyn Safier May 23, 2012 at 10:57 PM
i happen to know the mom and trust her with my kids - i understand that this was a lack of better judgement but until you are a mom with twins, in the rain, having spent the night in the er (so your judgement is impaired), don't judge her - i'm pretty sure that many moms have learned from her mistake - leave her with her kids - this nightmare won't disappear from her life any time soon -and CNN - shame on you - don't you have anything better to report 0r misreport?
Tommy P May 23, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Considering the mountain of laws enacted each year, all the regulations, etc. I hope if your ever called on it, the courts show you more leniency then you have displayed here as you break laws on a daily basis. She did something bone headed, it should earn her more scrutiny as there is NO evidence of a larger problem. UNLESS she is a clear danger, or a repeat offender, she should be fined a reasonable amount to cover the cost of that scrutiny including court costs and return to normalcy in due course. Its what is best for the children, its best for the mom, and its best for our community. Nothing is gained by locking her up, much is lost.
A Patch Reader May 24, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Drive thru pharmacies typically only fill Rx, they won't also let you pick up baby Tylenol or diapers or formula etc. whether to leave sleeping kids in the car while you run a quick errand is a debate in many mom circles. I was fortunate to have a neighborhood girl-mothers helper I could bring to run errands so I didn't have to juggle baby car seat and dry cleaning, etc... Hopefully, she will get a helper with those twins!
Deleted because of harassment May 24, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Sorry to break this to you, but some of us ARE parents, and believe that putting a mother of twins under the kind of threat of a sentence that even actual child molesters don't get for the act of running into a pharmacy with her twins in the car is so overblown as to defy any sense. We have evolved into a judgemental lot ever so quick to throw stones at someone for a practice that is commonplace in other countries - even in my lifetime mothers would leave a sleeping baby in a carriage outside a store while they watched through the store window and bought whatever it was they needed. In europe, they do it all the time. She was tired, the twins were sleeping, the one with the infection probably for the first time in hours. And, if she had not left the car in neutral, no one would have been the wiser. There are real criminals that belong in court. Go harrange them.
Deleted because of harassment May 24, 2012 at 01:36 AM
And if she doesn't get a helper, what then? Take her children away for the cardinal sin of being on the wrong side of public opinion. Hell, I left my child in the car once or twice when she was in sight and i talked to someone from outside the car. I even had bibs with ties, and stuffed toys and let her sleep on her stomach when she was an infant. Should I be sent to prison retroactively? For ten years? I can't believe that this is even a debate...
Daniel July 25, 2012 at 06:49 AM
The woman made a mistake by leaving the car in neutral. She either made a mistake or a really bad choice by leaving/forgetting her kids in the car. If she intentionally left the children in the car, I am sure she wasn't gone for more than 5-10 minutes. Regardless of other variables such as temperature and door lock status, she was wrong, BUT she should get a ticket, a verbal lashing from the officers, and a thorough investigation. What kind of world do we live in where leaving your kids in the car for 10 minutes (intentionally or not) results in Mom going to the Penitentiary for 10 years! Stupid, Stupid, Stupid... and insane. As others have said, it's certainly not helping the children and other family members and mom does not deserve it. I have a 2 month old and fear that one day, I will forget my son in the car. I pray that it never happens, but it really can happen to anyone. If it does ever happen to me while I'm in CVS and a concerned citizen calls the police, should I go to jail for 10 years? I love my son and will do anything for him as I'm sure this parent would. I don't know all the circumstances, but I'm pretty damn sure Mom loves her kids and would never put them in harms way.


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