PHOENIX — Like many busy mothers, Shanesha Taylor was trying to do it all.
The 35-year-old Phoenix woman had an important job interview last month at an insurance company across town in Scottsdale. But she couldn't find a babysitter for her 2-year-old son and 6-month old baby.
Trying to get out from under the dark cloud of unemployment and food stamps, Taylor made the decision to leave her children in her Dodge Durango outside the office where she was interviewing with the key still in the ignition. She was arrested after a witness noticed the infant crying hysterically and sweating profusely as temperatures inside the vehicle exceeded 100 degrees.
The case has attracted considerable attention on the Internet as a fundraising site created by a New Jersey woman for Taylor has amassed nearly $90,000. Taylor's tearful police mugshot, the danger she put her children in, and her dilemma of trying to juggle a lack of child care with her job pursuit all have contributed to the debate.
Amanda Bishop, a 24-year-old New Jersey woman, couldn't get the tear-streaked mugshot image out of her head. Bishop said she was inspired to set up the fundraising page for Taylor because she could relate to growing up in a family that doesn't have a lot of money.
"I had a mother and family in general who struggled raising us and had to rely on other resources to provide for us and sometimes made not the greatest choices," Bishop said.
But prosecutors point out that Taylor's actions put the safety of her children in danger.
According to court documents, Scottsdale firefighters found the windows of the vehicle rolled down only an inch and no running air conditioning to keep the children cool. The baby was described as wearing a short-sleeve shirt over a long-sleeve shirt, as well as a blanket. Taylor arrived back at the car more than an hour after her interview time, the documents said.
"Everything is focused on the mother and understandably so. It seems to be a very compelling human interest story," County Attorney Bill Montgomery said at a recent news conference. "But I'm equally concerned and compelled about the circumstances those two children were in."
Montgomery said it's too soon to determine if Taylor will receive a prison term or face losing custody of her children. Her offenses could amount to a sentence ranging from probation to seven years in prison, prosecutors said.
Neither Taylor nor her court-appointed attorney has responded to requests for comment.
Bishop established a site for Taylor on YouCaring.com with the goal of raising $9,000. She was flabbergasted when the site reached the goal in four days and then exceeded it by tens of thousands of dollars. She has since spoken on the phone with Taylor about getting the money to her.
"I was very surprised at how strong she is. I was expecting a broken-down woman and devastated," Bishop said. "But she is focusing on just getting her children back."
The site has received more than a thousand comments, some of which accuse Bishop and other supporters of endorsing child abuse. Bishop said Taylor should not be condemned for one bad decision.
"She could have been at a bar or at a club and leaving her children in the car," Bishop said. "Here's a woman who is an example of someone who is trying — who is trying to better her situation and doing what she can to provide for her children."