### Woman from Washington County Finishes Parenting Course Following Incident with Child in Hot Car

A parenting class mandated as part of her probation was successfully completed by a woman from Washington County after her young child had to be rescued from a hot car by a firefighter last summer.

Jehona Vitija, a 38-year-old resident of the Chewsville area, entered a guilty plea on Nov. 29 in Washington County District Court for confining an unattended child in September. She was granted probation before judgment, and as per the plea agreement, a reckless endangerment charge was dropped.

State’s Attorney Gina Cirincion mentioned in an email that Vitija, with no prior criminal record, was granted probation before judgment for the misdemeanor offense.

Recently filed court documents indicate that Vitija finished an 11-week formal parent education program offered by the Empowering Mother’s Group, facilitated by the Family Partnership of Frederick County, Maryland.

The incident occurred on Sept. 6 at the Valley Mall parking lot during a day marked by a heat advisory issued by the National Weather Service due to extreme temperatures and humidity.

Around 5:30 p.m., two women noticed an unattended child in a car at the parking lot, prompting one of them to dial 911.

Firefighter/EMT Matt Sweitzer from the Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway recounted to The Herald-Mail that he had to break a car window using a Halligan bar because visibility was obstructed, and they were unable to ascertain if the child inside was breathing. Following three forceful strikes with the bar on the window, he shattered the glass.

The child, a 4-year-old boy, began crying as he was escorted by a firefighter to an ambulance for evaluation.

Sweitzer utilized a thermal camera post-window breakage and door opening to measure the car’s interior temperature, which registered around 140 degrees, corroborated by Sweitzer and the fire chief.

A notation on a trial docket document indicated “Valley Mall child locked in veh. 130 (degrees).”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leaving an unattended child in a parked car poses the highest risk for heat stroke and potential fatality.

Furthermore, in Maryland, it is against the law to leave a child under 8 years old “unattended, locked or confined to a home, car, building, or other enclosure without proper supervision,” as highlighted in an email from Sgt. Carly Hose, spokesperson for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office during the previous summer.

The defense attorney representing Vitija declined to provide a statement for this article.