Mother charged with child abuse after leaving toddler in hot car

Ashley Garris was charged with misdemeanor child abuse for leaving her 2-year-old son in a hot car for nearly an hour on Thursday in Greenville. (Photos courtesy of Greenville Police Department)

GREENVILLE, Pitt County - A woman who left her child in a hot car while she shopped inside a beauty supply store in Greenville has been charged with misdemeanor child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor authorities said Friday.

The child was taken from the mother and is now under the care of relatives.

The Greenville Police officer who rescued the child spoke out on Friday, saying temperatures in the car where the child was found yesterday had reached 116 degrees. Bystanders hear the 2-year-old boy crying and after being unable to find the child's mother, called police.

Officer Elliot Gruhn responded within minutes.

"I noticed the baby was inside the car and he was strapped in a child seat and i was able to put my arm through the window to open the door and unlock it and I brought the kid inside the restaurant," Gruhn said.

Gruhn brought the child into Zoe's Kitchen, getting him water and taking him into the restaurant's walk-in freezer to begin the cooling off process. The child had been left in the car nearly an hour by the time he was rescued.

"It's like an oven, once the sun hits the car it can warm up extremely quick," Gruhn said. "Within 10 minutes it can rise 20 degrees. (Even) if it's 60 degrees outside, it can reach over 100 degrees in the car in a short amount of time."

Gruhn says if you find a child in a hot car, you should call 911 first and receive directions from authorities and not resort to breaking a window as the first course of action.

The mother was identified as 21-year-old Ashley Garris.