By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
---- — DERRY — A Derry mother is in jail facing charges she left her two toddlers in the car alone Tuesday afternoon for approximately 20 minutes.
Marie Dennis’s children, a 2-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy, were treated for heat exhaustion and released to the custody of a family friend.
Dennis, 33, allegedly locked her children in her Mazda SUV in the Wal-Mart parking lot on Ashleigh Drive, then went into the store alone. The outside temperature was in the mid-90s, Capt. Vernon Thomas said, and there was no shade in the parking lot. The car windows were cracked open less than an inch, he said.
Citizens called 911 from the Wal-Mart lot just past 4 p.m. Tuesday. Police and fire responded and found several concerned people around the green 2001 Mazda Tribute, Thomas said.
The children appeared to be in distress — crying, sweaty and with red faces, Thomas said.
While emergency responders worked to force their way into the locked car, Dennis came out of the store and unlocked her vehicle.
Derry Fire Department personnel immediately started to treat the children, then transported them to Parkland Medical Center. They were treated for heat exhaustion, then released in the early evening to a family friend, Thomas said.
Police interviewed Dennis and prepared to take her into custody. She struggled and tried to leave, Tomas said, but was arrested and jailed overnight.
She was arraigned yesterday morning and charged with two felony counts of second-degree assault, two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child and a single misdemeanor count of resisting arrest.
She is being held on $5,000 cash or surety bail. Should she be released, she cannot have any unsupervised contact with children under the age of 18.
Thomas said the state Division of Youth, Children and Families is involved, but would not elaborate further.
The outcome could have been worse, according to numerous studies about the dangers of children or animals being left in locked vehicles in the summer.
With an outside temperature of 80 degrees, the interior temperature of a car can reach 109 degrees within 20 minutes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. With the outside temperature at 90 degrees, a car’s interior can hit 119 degrees within 20 minutes.
Heat exhaustion can hit at any temperature over 90 degrees, according to the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, and heat stroke is possible above 105 degrees.
Dennis was still listed as being in custody at the jail yesterday afternoon.