ONLY ON 12: Witness talks about newborn baby left in hot car

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News 12 at 11 / Thursday, June 19, 2014


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A two week old baby is recovering and his mother is behind bars after deputies say she left him in a hot car.

Investigators say Alicia Manigault took her final exam while her newborn was in the SUV. A witness who saw everything talked only to News 12 and says she didn't realize what was happening.

Alicia Manigault (WRDW-TV)

A 20-year-old mother might have wanted to pass her final exam, but one witness says she failed as a parent Thursday.

"Summertime in the heat, it's no excuse. I don't even care if it's wintertime," Ronita Johnson told News 12.

Johnson parks in the same lot where deputies say Manigualt left her two week old baby in a car in the summer heat.

"I know education is important, but nothing is more important than a life," she said.

On her way to class, Johnson says something caught her eye.

"It was like, she was contemplating, she was thinking about what she was doing, or what she was going to do. She had the receiving blanket over the car seat," said Johnson.

Being a mother of three, Johnson knows how moms try to make space in the car, but never imagined a baby was in that car seat.

"I would have come up to that car and asked her, 'What are you doing? Open this trunk and get this child out of here," she said

"It is a very horrible thing to receive this kind of information," said Richmond County Sgt. Monica Belser.

Sgt. Belser sees tragedies in her line of work, but even after more than a decade on the job, crimes like these hit her hard.

"I'm not able to have children, so it just kind of touches a sensitive part for me," she said.

Sgt. Belser says there's no excuse for leaving a child or pet in a car, especially during a hot summer day. She says if Manigualt is found guilty, she'll have a lot of time to think about the crime.

"She could face jail time from anywhere to one year or more," she said.

Meanwhile, Johnson says she'll hug her kids a little tighter and pray baby Christopher fully recovers.

"A second is a second too long that anything could happen" she said.

Baby Christopher is now with his grandmother, and the Sheriff's Office says he'll stay there until DFACS decides when or even if he can be with his mother again.

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