Victoria Harris, Minot, sentenced to six months for leaving kids in cold car while she got a wax

Victoria Jasmine Harris, 26, Minot, will serve about six months in jail for leaving the 4- and 3-year-old children she was babysitting alone in a cold car for up to 25 minutes last January while she got a wax at a salon.

“I knew it was wrong,” Harris told Judge Stacy Louser on Tuesday. “I just did a dumb decision and I do apologize for it.”

The temperature outside was 21 degrees on Jan. 23 when Harris locked the children in a car – which was not running – that was parked in a parking lot outside the salon at 1407 South Broadway. She had made an appointment for a wax at 10 a.m. but the business wouldn’t allow her to bring the children inside. She left the children in the car and told someone in the business that she had arranged for a friend to pick up the kids. Police later discovered the children inside the car. The 3-year-old boy was curled up in a ball in the car, wearing a thin cotton sweater and no coat. The girl, who was wearing a winter coat, unlocked the car door for the officer and the officer took the children into the building. While the officer was trying to contact the children’s parents, Harris approached the officer.

Prior to the sentencing hearing, the children’s mother cried and told the judge that her children are still traumatized. The girl is in counseling and the boy has night terrors and screams “Don’t leave me” every time the car is turned off. The children’s mother told the judge that she is younger than Harris and this was not just a dumb decision. Harris, who already has a daughter of her own, knew better.

Harris’s defense attorney, Ashley Gulke, asked for her “young and dumb” client, who has no significant prior criminal history and is now pregnant with her own second child, to be given probation and to have the opportunity to have the C felony child neglect charge reduced to an A misdemeanor.

Ward County Deputy State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz told the judge that jail time is required in a case such as this. A plea offer was made to Harris in February by another attorney who is no longer with the state’s attorney’s office. Schwarz, who joined the office not long ago, said he honored the original plea offer that was made by the other prosecutor.

“Ms. Harris is lucky I was not on this case in the beginning or such an offer would not have been made,” said Schwarz.

Schwarz noted that the two children could have been seriously injured. Judge Stacy Louser added that the two small children could have been abducted.

Harris told the judge that her contact with her own daughter has been restricted. Gulke said that a six- month jail sentence could mean Harris will either give birth to her baby while she is in custody or soon after she is released, which is a serious consequence.

The mother of the two victims told the judge that she hopes Harris never does this to her own children or to any other child.

Gulke said Harris had been babysitting for another family until recently.

Louser, who said Harris’s choice to leave the children alone so she could get a wax was “quite stunning,” said she would follow the state’s sentencing recommendation rather than that made by the defense. Louser sentenced Harris to two years in prison, with a requirement she serve 180 days, and three years of supervised probation. Louser ordered Harris to have no contact with the two child victims or their family, ordered her to take a parenting class, and not to provide child care for any child other than her own.

Harris must also pay $1,100 in court costs.