Grandmother gets probation for leaving child in hot car

Mug shot of Karol Fitzgerald.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan woman has been sentenced for leaving her 2-year-old granddaughter in a hot car at a Grand Rapids-area store earlier this year.

Tuesday, Karol Ann Fitzgerald was sentenced to six months of probation, WOOD Radio reports. She must also attend parenting or grandparenting classes.

Fitzgerald was charged with a misdemeanor count of leaving a child in an unattended vehicle after the May incident at the Wal-Mart on Alpine Avenue in Walker. A passerby noticed the 2-year-old girl in a minivan, sweating and red-faced. A Kent County sheriff’s deputy broke one of the windows to get her out. She showed signs of heat exhaustion, but wasn’t seriously hurt.

WOOD Radio says Fitzgerald said she couldn’t carry the girl or get her to wake up, so she left her in the minivan while she went into the store to shop. She is believed to have been inside for about 40 minutes. The judge told Fitzgerald, 72, that she used “extremely bad judgment.”

In January 2015, Fitzgerald was accused by the federal government of creating false deductions, fake business expenses and misrepresenting income to get bigger returns for clients. Federal investigators estimate the government lost out on more than $11 million in 2010 and 2011 alone because of the fraud.

She did not face any criminal charges, but the government asked a judge to bar her from preparing taxes.

In November 2013, federal authorities raided Fitzgerald’s home in Cedar Springs. They took boxes and boxes of files from the unsecured house, out of which she ran her business and which was she was losing to foreclosure. When Target 8 went to the house the weeks after the feds, we found tax documents that were left behind in burn barrels and scattered around the yard. Fitzgerald told Target 8 that she thought her son had burned all the files. Target 8 called authorities, who later collected the documents.