Mother accused of leaving toddler in car despite freezing temperatures, police say

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GASTONIA, N.C. - A Gastonia mother is accused of leaving her toddler in her car for an hour in temperatures close to freezing.

The arresting officer said when he found the child in the car, the 2-year-old was cold to the touch and left alone in what he called a life-threatening situation.

He contacted the Department of Social Services to decide what will happen to the child while his mother is in jail.

Channel Nine was there when she went before a judge Wednesday afternoon.

Sylla Aminata said she understood why she was in jail, but the African native had trouble keeping up with the judge's questions.

"I don't understand good English," Aminata said.

The judge said he will leave it to her attorney to explain the judicial process, as well as how to defend herself against the charge that stunned her neighbors.

A man who wished to remain anonymous and has seen her playing with her son at her Gastonia home commented, "You can't be talking about the same woman that I know right here, because she's not like that."

He was told that police said Aminata went shopping at the Walmart in west Gastonia while her 2-year-old son sat in her car.

The doors were locked, the engine was turned off, and the temperature was just above freezing.

"She's a real good mother," he responded.

Another shopper who parked beside her noticed the little boy alone and called 911.

"There is a young child in the car by itself," the caller said to the police dispatcher.

The concerned shopper also said there was a blanket in the car, but it wasn't used to keep the toddler warm.

"Looks like they tried to hang up a little blanket or something, but the little boy just moved and moved the blanket," the caller commented.

The arresting officer said the child was left in a potentially fatal position because of his mother's neglect.

Jim Landis of Gastonia Fore Department and Project Safe Kids says a child can catch frostbite in a car on a cold night.

"Their bodies can't produce enough energy to keep them warm," Landis said.

Channel Nine has not heard how the child is doing today.

Police have only given limited information about him because he is a minor.

His mother booked out of jail Wednesday night.