Prosecutors in Ocean County announced Friday that a Lakewood woman who left her child, who later died, in a hot car for more than two hours will likely avoid jail time.
Chaya Shurkin, 27, of Lakewood, pled guilty to a charge of endangering the welfare of a child. Prosecutors will recommend Shurkin serve a term of probation – a move the office addressed Friday in a statement.
“It should be noted that the state’s recommendation for probation is consistent with the manner in which the majority of these dreadful types of cases have been handled in Ocean County, as well as throughout this state and nation, and it represents an acknowledgement that the loss of a child – under these horrific circumstances – is tantamount to a life-sentence in and of itself,” Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said.
During the May 6, 2019 incident, officers from the Lakewood Township Police Department responded to a residence for a report of a child in distress. Life-saving measures were performed on the child at the scene, and the child was then transported to Monmouth Medical Center, Southern Campus, in Lakewood. The child later died at the hospital.
An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, Lakewood police, and the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, determined that Shurkin, the child’s mother, had left the child alone in her motor vehicle for approximately two-and-a-half hours with the car turned off, in the heat. The medical examiner confirmed that the cause of the child’s death was “exposure to increased environmental temperatures.”
The manner of death was determined to be accidental.
“Sadly, the loss of this child was totally avoidable,” Billhimer’s statement said. “Ms. Shurkin lost a child as a consequence of her own inattention; this is a burden she must carry with her for the rest of her life, which amounts to a far greater punishment than any sentence the State could possibly recommend to a court.”
Sentences around the nation have varied wildly in such cases. In January, a California mother was sentenced to 14 years in prison for fatally leaving her toddler in a hot car. Last summer, an Indiana woman was sentenced to a 30-year prison term for leaving her child to perish in a hot car.