April 11, 2007 in Idaho

Baby left in vehicle a rare event, police say

Taryn Brodwater Staff writer

Post Falls police sometimes get calls about dogs being left in cars on hot sunny days, but Lt. Scot Haug said reports of children left unattended in cars are rare.

A 30-year-old Rathdrum woman was arrested Saturday after leaving her 9-month-old daughter alone in an unlocked van – with the keys in the ignition – while she shopped at the Post Falls Wal-Mart.

“It’s an extreme case,” Haug said.

Lori A. Wikum, 30, was in the store for nearly half an hour while the child was in the van, according to police reports.

Wikum told police her daughter had fallen asleep.

“I just forgot she was back there,” she said, according to Post Falls police reports. Wikum, who was issued a misdemeanor citation for injury to a child, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Haug said the warm weather Saturday – about 70 degrees – was of grave concern to the officers who arrived on scene.

“In 2003, 44 kids died due to being left unattended in or around a vehicle,” Haug said. There was also a risk that someone could have stolen the car and taken the child.

Another shopper called police after he heard the child’s cries. Officer Frank Bowne wrote in his report that the crying could be heard from 40 feet away.

Bowne found the infant strapped into a car seat inside the van. He opened the sliding door and attempted to comfort the child, he wrote in his report.

Officer Dennis Sanchez had the store staff page the van’s registered owner – Wikum’s husband, Kenneth – over the intercom.

Sanchez said there was no response, so he asked the staff to page the “owner of a blue Dodge Caravan.” Wikum responded, the report said.

“I then asked Lori if she had a child and she immediately started crying and had a look of shock,” Sanchez wrote in the report.

As he led Wikum to the van, she apologized profusely, Sanchez said. Wikum told Sanchez she thought the child was with her father at home in Rathdrum, according to the report.

Later, as she was being booked into the jail, Wikum told Bowne, “Everyone’s looking at me like I’m a bad person” and “I’m not a bad mother,” according to the report.

She told him: “I deserve this. How stupid could I be?”

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