Kearny mom left baby in car to shop, police say



Were it not for the active intervention of a good Samaritan, the life of a baby left in a broiling car might not have been spared, according to authorities.

Lyndhurst Police are crediting resident Karen Wagner and Volunteer Dep. Fire Chief Daniel Rente for their actions in helping save a 17-month-old child in an incident that played out on the afternoon of July 21 in the parking lot of the mall next to the Municipal Building off Valley Brook Ave.

It was shortly after 1 p.m. when Wagner recalled she’s just come out of the Mandee shop in the mall and was walking toward T.J. Maxx when “a Spanish woman came up to me and said, ‘Baby in car. Alone.’ ” “I asked her to show me, we walked to the car (a 2002 Hyundai Sonata parked in front of T.J. Maxx),” Wagner said. There Wagner saw little Gabriel Deleao in a car seat in the passenger side of the back seat. All windows were closed. “The baby moved its head but its eyes were shut. I turned around and now, the woman was gone.”

Acting on instinct, Wagner ran into T.J. Maxx and asked a cashier to alert the manager to the situation. At the same time, she called police, describing the car where the baby was, and ran back outside, where a township fi re vehicle happened to be passing with Dan Rente inside.

Wagner, whose husband and son are volunteer Lyndhurst firefighters, yelled to Rente, “I need you right now!”, and led him to the Hyundai. “I back off and he starts flipping (door) handles until finally, he gets one open, goes inside and checks out the baby.”

Photo by Ron Leir/ Good Samaritan Karen Wagner.


Rente “gets on the radio and says, ‘Baby unresponsive,’ ’’ Wagner recalled. Hearing that, Wagner – the mother of three children – put her hand on the baby’s chest. “His heart was racing and he was soaking wet in sweat, beyond drenched. Inside the car, it was hot, like opening an oven door. Because the car was in full sun.”

Noticing a water bottle on the front seat, Wagner – with Rente’s consent – grabbed it and gently rubbed water on the baby’s head. She said she could see the baby’s eyes open briefly before a township ambulance crew rushed the baby to Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville.

Meanwhile, police, after recovering the car’s registration form in the car – registered to the baby’s father – began going store to store asking managers to seek out that individual. Inside the T.J. Maxx, Tatiana Deleao, the baby’s mom, heard her husband’s name announced over the store’s P.A. system and responded.

Police said Deleao told them she’d been shopping for about a half hour. Deleao, 31, of Kearny, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a second-degree crime, and was released on bail.

If found guilty, she could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, according to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. The state Division of Youth & Family Services is investigating the incident, police said.

As of last week, police said that the baby was back home and appeared to be healthy.

– Ron Leir

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