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Fla. mom who power-washed tot may face charges

A Florida mother caught on tape using a pressurized hose at a car wash to discipline her toddler daughter could end up in hot water after police meet Friday to consider filing child endangerment charges.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

A Florida mother caught on tape using a pressurized hose at a car wash to discipline her toddler daughter could end up in hot water after police meet Friday to consider filing child endangerment charges.

“She appeared [to be] a parent who thought she was disciplining her child for acting up. It’s a unique form of punishment that I don’t think anyone has ever seen,” Commander Matt Irwin of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said Friday on TODAY. “It’s not acceptable in my mind.”

The incident began on Feb. 24 when a white Hyundai Elantra pulled into a self-service bay at the Magical Car Wash in Orlando.

Although children often can be heard screaming and carrying on, manager Marlene Diaz told TODAY’s David Gregory that the shrieks she heard from one little girl that day were quite different and disturbing.

“The screams were more high-pitched. There were more cries of help,” Diaz said.

Diaz went to investigate the commotion but did not intervene. She did not get the full picture until later, when she reviewed her company’s security camera recordings.

“When I saw her, her face was red. You could see that she was crying, and that [by] the way she was crying that she was in distress,” Diaz said.

Summoned by Diaz, police later determined that the toddler’s mother, who is 22 and five months pregnant, pulled into the car wash for the sole purpose of hosing down her daughter — possibly for wetting herself in the backseat of the car.

At the end of the surveillance tape of the incident, which police seized as potential evidence, the woman is seen stripping her daughter’s soaked clothes off and wrapping her up in a towel.

Tough love or child abuse?
Diaz said she struggled to imagine what infraction the child could have committed to warrant being hosed down like that, and couldn’t come up with any excuse for the mother’s action. She said it was clear that the woman was trying to teach the child some sort of lesson.

“The mother was speaking in Spanish,” Diaz said. “She said, ‘You are not going to disrespect me. You are not going to treat me bad. Don’t worry, I’m not going to hit you now. I’m just going to spray you with cold water.’”

According to Diaz and police, the woman tested the water pressure on the hose before using it on the little girl. The car wash’s hoses have various settings that go up to 1,200 pounds per square inch, but police do not believe the water pressure the woman applied on the child was anywhere close to that.

After the surveillance tape was broadcast by the media, the woman turned herself in to police for questioning and denied abusing the child, who remains in her care, Irwin said.

“There are no physical injuries that our medical staff could find and document,” he said.

Child welfare officials were notified of the incident. Police plan to meet with them later Friday and decide whether to pursue child endangerment charges against the mother.

“We don’t know yet. We are going to roundtable that this morning,” Irwin said.