A California nurse faces a child cruelty charge for leaving her daughter inside a minivan while she visited two stores at a mall. Her attorney argues it was a lapse in judgment, not a criminal act.
Myngan Thi Le, 32, of Escondido, decided to stop at North County Fair Mall in January because she was feeling sick and needed to use the restroom.
Le’s 3-year-old daughter was asleep so the registered nurse decided to leave the girl in the car while she ran inside.
She stopped at the Macys but the bathroom was closed for 15 minutes, her attorney told jurors in opening statements Tuesday. So Le decided to go to the Gymboree store in the meantime before returning to Macys.
Prosecutors argue it was 45 minutes later when Le returned to the minivan and was met by law enforcement authorities and firefighters.
Police had smashed the window and recovered her child from inside.
Escondido police said they found Le’s daughter crying and soaked in sweat with red, flushed skin. The girl had an “extremely elevated pulse,” officers said.
Defense attorney Brian White argues that the girl’s crying and elevated heart rate were due to strangers looking into the car and shattering the window.
While the temperature that day was 72 degrees, temperatures in the car were “significantly higher,” police said.
Passers-by had stopped after hearing Le’s daughter crying from inside the minivan.
A witness, Rosemary Agriesti, testified she tried to put her finger through the window to calm the girl down. She said her crying lasted for more than 25 minutes.
"It wasn't the crying as much as it was very hot that day and she was all red in the face, either from crying or from the heat. I'm not a doctor," said Agriesti, who added the girl was sweating.
Le’s defense attorney said Megan and her husband will also be taking the stand to give their side of the story.
Le faces one misdemeanor count of cruelty to a child by endangering her health. She faces six months in jail if convicted.
Le currently works as a nurse in the obstetrics unit of Kaiser Permanente. Her employer sent NBC 7 the following statement Thursday:
“Kaiser Permanente is aware of recent allegations against an employee. The charges against this individual are unrelated to her work at Kaiser Permanente. Kaiser Permanente does not speak to personnel issues, and cannot comment publicly due to privacy laws."