Police: Mom Left Kids in Car While She Worked Out

NANTICOKE -- A couple in Luzerne County have been charged with child endangerment.

The charges come after two children were found locked in a car in Nanticoke while their mom worked out in a gym.

Police say the mother was running on the treadmill for about 20 minutes at a gym in Nanticoke when they found her 11-year-old son with Asperger's syndrome in the car alone with his 5-month-old baby sister.

Molly O'Neill and Daniel Johnson of Mountain Top, were in court with their lawyer, facing child endangerment charges.

In June, Nanticoke police were called to the Nanticoke Fitness Center at nearly 10 p.m. In the parking lot of the gym, someone noticed two children by themselves inside a locked car.

When police arrived, they convinced the older child -- an 11-year-old with a form of autism -- to open the doors. A 5-month-old girl was also in the vehicle.

The child told police his mother was inside the gym.

The officer used a member's pass to access the gym and found Molly O'Neill, the mother, inside. O'Neill told police she "rigged" the car so that if the doors were opened an alarm would go off.

Police reported the incident to child services and began investigating.

"In this case, the child was buckled in a seat. It only takes a second for something to occur," said Nanticoke Police Capt. Bob Lehman. "We encourage, as does society today, don't leave your child, especially a 5 month old unattended."

Investigators say they learned O'Neill had left her children unattended in the gym parking lot about a dozen times before, for up to two hours at a time.

She has now been charged with 21 counts of child endangerment.

Her partner Daniel Johnson is charged with one count of child endangerment because police say that on at least one occasion he also left the children in the car while at the gym.

"At this point, we are taking every precaution to make sure those children are safe and they are placed where they are going to remain safe," said Capt. Lehman.

The couple was allowed to walk out of court on $25,000 unsecured bail.

The judge also allowed the children to remain with the couple while child protective services does its own evaluation and investigation.

Nanticoke Fitness Center issued the following statement:

"Nanticoke Fitness Center is a 24-hour facility. Our staffed hours of operation are 11-7 Monday thru Friday and 11-3 on Saturday. Active gym members are given 24-hour access to the facility by way of a fingerprint reader. The incidents of child endangerment occurred outside of our normal staffed hours. No staff members were aware of these incidents or present when they occurred. We do not condone these actions, and have cooperated with the Nanticoke Police Department throughout their investigation."

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