Rachel Vanwagner faces charges of child abuse and neglect in connection with the incident on Tuesday

By Chris Harris
July 27, 2018 02:50 PM
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Credit: Shelby County Sheriff's Office

A 26-year-old Tennessee mother allegedly left her baby girl unattended in a hot vehicle earlier this week while she went inside a restaurant to drink on National Tequila Day, according to multiple news outlets.

The woman, identified as Rachel Vanwagner, faces charges of child abuse and neglect in connection with the alleged incident on Tuesday, which occurred in the parking lot at a Mexican restaurant on Highway 70 in Arlington.

Accord Deputies from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office were first called to the establishment by a couple who overheard a child’s cries as they left dinner around 7 p.m., according to local TV station WMC.

The couple said that a baby girl, who appeared to be about 6 months old, was in a car alone, WMC reports. The vehicle was not running and the windows were left open a crack.

According to charging documents obtained by station WHBQ, the baby was sweating when police arrived to remove her from the car.

The outside temperature when authorities arrived at the restaurant was 92 degrees, WHBQ reports.

“When you walk outside you don’t expect to hear a baby in a car and when you do immediately as a parent you perk up,” said the man who, along with his wife, first called authorities He asked to remain anonymous when speaking with local TV.

“The child was hot,” he told WMC. “We could tell that she was sweating, but we knew she wasn’t in immediate danger yet.”

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Vanwagner, of Mason, ran out of the restaurant without shoes after noticing authorities standing around her vehicle, according to WHBQ.

Vanwagner allegedly told the deputies that she was in the restaurant for 30 minutes at the most and had just one drink, according to the Tribune Media Wire. She was subsequently taken into custody.

“She seemed almost hysterical,” the man reportedly said. “Maybe that she got caught or maybe that her baby was in the arms of a paramedic. I don’t know, tough to tell, hard to put yourself in the mind of someone that would leave a baby in a car.”

Her child is said to be doing fine after receiving medical treatment at the scene, the Tribune Media Wire reports. The baby was placed in the care of Vanwagner’s mother, according to WMC.

Citing a court affidavit, the station reports that Vangwanger declined to give a statement to authorities.

It was unclear Friday if she has entered a plea or retained an attorney who could comment on her behalf. She has been released on an unspecified amount of bond but could not immediately be reached by PEOPLE.

Authorities did not return a call.