Support pours in for mom accused of leaving kids in hot car

By Lisa Flam

Her tears have struck a chord.

More than $100,000 has been pledged to help a single mother from Arizona who was arrested last month after allegedly leaving her 2-year-old and 6-month-old sons alone in a hot car while she went on a job interview because she was unable to find a babysitter.

The mother, Shanesha Taylor, 35, was charged with two counts of child abuse. She has pleaded not guilty and was released on bail posted by a stranger, her lawyer told Wednesday. Her two boys are now in state care. 

Her tearful mug shot has brought attention to issues facing the nation’s poor and unemployed, especially single mothers.

Amanda Bishop, a New Jersey woman who does not know Taylor, felt compelled to help. She launched an online fundraising campaign in support of Taylor, with pledges now totaling more than $106,000.

“There are some of us that feel that Shanesha was in an unfortunate situation that sadly an economy like ours is putting many single mothers in a position to make terrible mistakes like this,” the fundraising site says.

Bishop, 24, told MSNBC's Tamron Hall that she launched the fundraising campaign after viewing Taylor’s Facebook page and finding nothing but posts and pictures featuring Taylor’s kids. “That convinced me she wasn’t a bad mom, she just made a terrible mistake,” Bishop said.

Though there has been some criticism of the effort, Bishop said that it’s easy for people who have never struggled to judge Taylor harshly. Bishop said she herself was raised by a struggling mother. 

“Nobody’s saying she’s right for her choice,” Bishop said. “It’s just a matter of what is more wrong here: The fact that she did this or the fact that there are so many people out there put in a position to make this decision or to make risks like this?”

Others agreed, including single mothers who left comments on the fundraising site saying they understood Taylor’s dilemma.

"I understand the struggle, I've been there before too. It's VERY HARD being a single parent and having NO ONE to turn to for support," wrote Dawn F. Edwards, who donated $25.

"Dear Shanesha, please accept this donation as a sign that you are not alone in this fight," wrote Lauren Dunne, who donated $5. "Unfortunately, you had no options at this moment in your life... you are indeed a good mother that was only fighting for a better future for your children."

“Fortunately, I didn't face the situation of being unemployed while raising my child, but I certainly can understand the desperate feelings of a mother trying to do right by seeking employment to support her children,” a single mother with a special needs child wrote.

“I am a single mother, and sometimes we are faced with the most challenging choices a person and single parent will have to make,” a donor identified as GLS wrote. “I can only assume that you made the choice to leave your children briefly because that was your ONLY option. I'm sure you were hoping to make a better life for you and your children if you were offered a position.”

Taylor was arrested in March after her two young boys were left in the car with the windows down an inch, The Associated Press reported, and a witness found the younger boy crying and sweating heavily as temperatures in the vehicle topped 100 degrees. Her children were examined at a local hospital and released as uninjured, reported.

Not everyone is sympathetic to Taylor.

"So this woman leaves her kids in the car, gets arrested, and gets rewarded for it? We live in a sad world," Richard Carrasco commented on the AZCentral website.

"Let's review: Her children are now in the care of family. Why weren't they in family care on job interview day?" wrote John Schwendler of Carlyle, Ill. "People who donate to people like this, who consistently make bad life decisions, are fools as well."

She faces a maximum penalty of more than 8 years in prison, according to her lawyer, Benjamin Taylor, who is not related.

“This is a single mom who was trying to get a job, and unfortunately she was arrested for trying to get a job,” he said, adding that he plans to meet with prosecutors on Friday. “She wasn’t going to a liquor store. She wasn’t going to a party. She was going to a job interview.”

“This is a case where you have a single mom who’s doing her best, who’s trying to survive out here in the world,” he said, adding that adding that it was her first criminal offense.

On Tuesday, he gave prosecutors more than 12,000 signatures on a petition supporting the desperate mom and also relayed her thanks by reading out loud a letter she wrote.

"The love, compassion and support of those of you around the world are nothing less than phenomenal,” her lawyer said. “I read all of your cards, emails and letters. They keep my spirits up. And your prayers brighten my darkest days. I read a message the other day that reminded me … it takes a village to raise a child. Thank you all for being my village."

Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter @lisaflam.