Felony charges are expected to be filed Thursday against a 29-year-old transient suspected of leaving her two toddler children unattended in a car parked for several hours outside a San Jacinto store, where they were found suffering heat-related illnesses.
Sarah Maria Casciato was arrested Sunday on suspicion of willful child cruelty, child endangerment, being under the influence of a controlled substance and being in possession of controlled substances and was booked into the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
According to Riverside County sheriff’s Sgt. Kevin Dorrough, a shopper walking through the parking lot of Walmart in the 1800 block of San Jacinto Avenue about 4:30 p.m. Sunday noticed a Toyota Solara idling near his vehicle and took a look inside.
The witness spied two tots, apparently asleep, with no adult in sight and called 911.
Patrol deputies arrived within a few minutes and detected that the 2-year-old boy and 1-year-old girl in the Toyota were in physical distress, prompting them to forcibly access the sedan, Dorrough said.
“Deputies … and fire personnel began performing life-saving measures,” he said. “The children were taken to Hemet Valley Hospital for advanced care.”
The sergeant said investigators ultimately determined the youngsters had been left alone in the car for more than two hours.
The tots are recovering and have since been placed under the supervision of staff from the county Department of Child Protective Services.
Dorrough said that after removing the children from the car, deputies initiated a search for their mother, ultimately relying on Walmart security surveillance videotape to identify Casciato, who was taken into custody inside the store without incident.
Deputies also seized heroin and methamphetamine, which had been within reach of both children inside the car, Dorrough alleged.
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