'Moment of desperation' led Arizona mom to leave kids in hot car during job interview

By Eun Kyung Kim

After her child care plans fell through at the last minute, an unemployed single mother in Arizona felt she had no choice but to take her young children with her and leave them in the car while she interviewed for a job nearby, she said Thursday. 

“It was a moment of desperation," Shanesha Taylor said in an exclusive interview on TODAY. "It was me knowing my family was in crisis and knowing that I had to make a choice between providing for my children or caring for my children.” 

Authorities arrested Taylor in March for leaving her 6-month-old and 2-year-old sons alone in her sports utility vehicle while interviewing for a job nearby in Scottsdale, Arizona. Last week, prosecutors agreed to drop felony child abuse charges against Taylor as part of a settlement that requires her to successfully complete parenting and substance abuse programs. 

Taylor told TODAY's Matt Lauer a sitter scheduled to look after her two youngest children “flaked on me, is the best way to say it." That’s when she felt she had to take her children with her to the interview.

She left the boys strapped in their car seats, the doors unlocked, the keys in the ignition and the windows cracked open an inch, according to police who estimate the temperature inside the vehicle climbed beyond 100 degrees while she was away.

Shanesha Taylor, 35, is pictured in this undated handout booking photo from the Scottsdale Police Department.HANDOUT / Today

“It’s making a choice out of desperation. It’s choosing what is the best option, what is the best thing for me to do in this particular situation – being able to provide food, a roof, clothes, shoes for them, or take this moment and care for them,” she said.

Unlike another “hot car” parent currently under investigation, Taylor’s case attracted widespread support after her tearful mug shot photo drew sympathy and sparked a national discussion about the poor and unemployed. After the media reported Taylor’s story, support poured in from strangers across the country, including a New Jersey woman who launched an online fundraising campaign. As part of the settlement, Taylor must put the nearly $115,000 that was raised toward an education trust fund for her children.

Taylor said she is happy with the deal.

“I think I’ve been treated fairly. The type of resolution I had not many people get so I think it’s an excellent job they did,” she said.

In April, TODAY asked in an online poll whether viewers were sympathetic to Taylor’s story found that 58 percent were, saying she felt desperate at the time. The remaining 42 percent said she should have found an alternative that didn’t endanger her kids.

However, when TODAY asked the same question Thursday following Taylor’s interview, the results flipped.

Taylor last saw her children, who were released into the custody of family members, on Monday. She faces additional court hearings to regain custody.

“I get to see them every weekend. We definitely have a lot of family time. You know, do as many activities as we can in the short two days,” she said.

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