Unemployed and on food stamps, Shanesha Taylor went to the job interview last month at a Scottsdale insurance company.
The 35-year-old wasn't able to find a sitter, so she left her 2-year-old son and 6-month-old baby in her Dodge Durango with the key still in the ignition and the windows rolled down an inch.
A witness found the infant crying hysterically and sweating profusely as temperatures inside the SUV exceeded 100 degrees.
Taylor was arrested after returning to the vehicle, and her tearful mug shot later caught the attention of 24-year-old Amanda Bishop of New Jersey.
Bishop said she was inspired to set up a fundraising web 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.
Taylor pleaded not guilty Monday at her arraignment.
Concern over SafetyProsecutors point out that her actions put the safety of her children in danger.
According to court documents, Scottsdale firefighters found the vehicle's windows 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 vehicle 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.
Fundraising EffortsBishop established the fundraising site 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.
The site also 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."