Woman left baby in hot car while she drank in restaurant, deputies say

Posted at 3:03 PM, Jul 26, 2018

ARLINGTON, Tenn. — A woman was arrested after witnesses say she left her child in a hot car in the parking lot of a restaurant.

It happened Tuesday — which also happened to be National Tequila Day.

Shelby County deputies responded to the scene after getting a call for a welfare check. Two customers said they heard a baby crying as they were walking through the parking lot.

"When you walk outside you don't expect to hear a baby in a car and when you do immediately as a parent you perk up," said one man, who did not want to be identified.

He and his wife were leaving dinner at Cazadores Mexican Grill around 7 p.m. when they spotted a baby girl, they believe around 6 months old, alone in a vehicle that was not running. A window was partially rolled down.

"The child was hot. We could tell that she was sweating but we knew she wasn't in immediate danger yet."

While checking on the child they made another shocking discovery — the car the child was alone in was unlocked. Shelby County Sheriff deputies and first responders showed up a short time later. Deputies say it was 92 degrees outside when they arrived on the scene. The baby was immediately removed from the vehicle and given medical treatment.

Police say the mother of the child, Rachel Vanwagner, ran out of the restaurant with no shoes on after noticing their presence.

She told deputies she knew she left her child in the car while it wasn't running, but she was only in the restaurant for 30 minutes and had one drink. The witnesses said they'd seen Vanwagner inside the restaurant drinking a margarita.

The 26-year-old Mason, Tennessee resident was arrested and charged with child abuse and neglect.

"She seemed almost hysterical," the man said. "Maybe that she got caught or maybe that her baby was in the arms of a paramedic. I don't know, tough to tell, hard to put yourself in the mind of someone that would leave a baby in a car."

The baby is ok and is now with relatives. The Department of Child Services has been notified about the case as well.