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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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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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