The Tempe mother who left her child alone inside a sweltering SUV while she went grocery shopping pleaded not guilty to child abuse Thursday morning.
Maria-Theresa Pio, 39, entered the plea at her arraignment in Maricopa County Superior Court.
She was arrested April 12 as she left a Fry's Food Store after shopping for 41 minutes, said Tempe Police Lt. Mike Pooley.
Surveillance videos at the grocery store show that Pio was in no hurry to complete her shopping as her 14-month-old sat in the black luxury SUV with the temperature reaching 124 degrees.
A passer-by told Estaban Soto, an off-duty Tempe first-responder, that she had heard a baby crying inside a vehicle in the parking lot of the store at 9900 S. Rural Rd., according to a court document.
Soto was working at a muscular dystrophy donation booth in front of the Fry's Food store and said he noticed a window was cracked about one to two inches and that the baby was not fully shaded.
The toddler was in a child seat in Pio's Cadillac SUV.
The Chandler Fire Department was able to get the door unlocked.
The interior temperature of the vehicle was measured at 124 degrees and the infant car seat was 113 degrees, Pooley said. Measurements were taken using a digital infrared thermometer.
Surveillance video showed the woman bought a Starbucks drink and then casually walked around the inside of the store shopping and looking at magazines, according to a court document.
The child was taken to a local hospital, treated and then released to his father, Pooley said.
Pooley said the child is expected to make a full recovery.
Police said the smaller the child, the quicker they overheat and the more difficult it is for them to cool down, especially in a confined space.
Child Protective Services was notified and Pio was booked into the Tempe City Jail on one count of child abuse.
Pio has been out of jail on bail.
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