My name is Jennifer Knight, I am 35 years old. I am not anywhere close to being prefect. However, before October 6, 2010 I had never been arrested, I don't do drugs, I only have 1-2 drinks a year ( & don't let alcohol inside my house) I am mentally stable, and I am Christian. I worked with children for a living off and on since I was 16 years old.
On October 6, 2010 my life changed.
Weeks before that day I didn't think it was a big deal to go to bed around midnight , then wake up around 3am to care for my youngest of four (Chris) he still wasn't quite sleeping through the night. Then I would get back up between 6:00 - 6:30 am so I could go to work. Normally I would take my 8 year old & 4 year old to daycare; leaving Chris with my fiancée. Then I would go to work. Later my fiancée would take Chris to daycare, as he picked up my 4 year old so she could go to pre-k class. However, I took my 4 year old out of pre-k because she wasn't potty trained & the school wouldn't change her, so she stayed at daycare. Also, my fiancée had to go downtown to get his finical aid and classes worked out. I had two shifts at work & I was due to go back for my second shift.
So, I picked up Chris to take him to daycare and remember putting him in the seat but when I was driving it was dead silent and I couldn't see my son in his rear facing car seat. Sadly, I forgot he was there as I thought I had dropped him off at daycare.
When I got off of work and saw the police/ fire department, I didn't realize they were there caring for my son. When I was arrested I was told I had left Chris in the car. The first words out of my mouth were, " I dropped my son at daycare." It took me about 5 minters to realize this was no sick joke.
I started crying, screaming, "Oh GOD! Is my son ok?" They did not let me know that Chris was ok until hours later. During my time at the police station I started going through the stages of grief. Thank GOD he is ok! I truly believe he had an angel watching him.
Even after knowing he was ok and even holding him, I went through a period where I had nightmares and I would wake up just to see if Chris was really still here with me. I lost my job of five years. I was indicated by DCFS without a proper investigation. I now have a misdemeanor on my record. My oldest child was not allowed to see me for 6 weeks because her dad claimed I was a danger to her. He kept her from me without court approval.
In May the court decided some of my visitation would be taken and I wouldn't get any overnight visitation except my summer vacation break.
Originally I was told if I wanted avoid serving time in jail, I had to say I was guilty, which meant saying I left Chris in my car on purpose. I just couldn't do that although I know I wouldn't last 5 seconds in jail. So, after I appeared in court a few times they were going to give me a trial.
Only one out of about four witnesses got to state their testimony that day. She said she found my son around 1:30 pm and told dispatch. However, nobody called the police or told me that my son was in my van. Before hearing her testimony, I had been told they found him right away & called the police.. sadly my son sat there two hours before anyone called the police. Also, they left him in the van never taking him out.
The judge pulled the lawyers aside to talk to them. My lawyer told me I would be allowed to plead innocent and still take the plea bargain which is 1 year court supervision, he also stated I better take it because the judge had planned on putting me in jail if I didn't. So, I took it and will be able to get this expunged off my record in two years.
I learned that anyone can forget their child. Especially if they are tired and not in their normal routine (like me). I had most of the symptoms of sleep deprivation but did not find that out until much later.
I urge anyone, even those who think this can't happen to them, to take precautions to prevent this tragedy from happing to them.
• Have your daycare, school or whoever watches your child(ren) call you if you don't drop them off on time.
• Leave anything you need for work in the back seat.
• Get rest anytime you can take it
• Check your backseats each time you leave the car.
• If you find a child or baby in a car please call the police right away, you don't know how long they have been in there.
• Try opening the door so the child can get fresh air and remove the child.
• If the child appears to be in distress, break a window furthest away from the child and remove the child.
• Some may think it is "safe" to leave their child alone for a minute to get gas or whatever, but anything can happen in a minute, you car can get stolen, your child may play with the window then get stuck inside it, you get held up longer than expected then the child is locked in a car that can get up to 150 degrees inside quickly.
Don't leave your child(ren) alone in the car! I never would have thought something like this could happen to me but it did & it can happen to anyone.
Read the Pulitzer Prize winning article at the link below to find out why professor Diamond says anyone can do this.