TERRY TANG, Associated Press
JACQUES BILLEAUD, Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) — For a time, Shanesha Taylor was an Internet sensation. She was the mother who — despite leaving her children in a sweltering car during a job interview — attracted sympathy from around the nation with a tear-stained mug shot.
She received $114,000 in donations from a public that seemed inclined to give her a pass for endangering her children based on the fact that she was out trying to get a job and was heartbroken over what she had done. Prosecutors gave her a break, too, allowing her to keep her kids and not face charges as long as she set up a $60,000 trust fund for her children with the donated money.
But Taylor is running out of second chances. She breached the deal by missing a Thursday deadline for putting money in the trusts, even after the amount of her payments was lowered to $40,000. Now that her deal has been revoked, Taylor is facing a Dec. 10 trial on two felony child-abuse charges.
Outside of a Thursday court hearing, Taylor repeatedly refused to say how much of the donated money remains, but said it was well over $60,000. She said she didn’t fund the trusts because her children won’t get the money if they choose not to attend college.
Prosecutors say the mother of three has spent about $4,100 per month, including more than $1,000 in non-essential items such as cable TV, clothing and dining. Prosecutor Bill Montgomery said this week that his patience “has reached its limit.”
Taylor said she isn’t living an extravagant lifestyle, taking her children out to eat at places like McDonald’s and Chuck E. Cheese’s. More importantly, Taylor said, is that she is still looking for work on a regular basis.
“I am not some lazy bum sitting on the couch,” Taylor said.
Taylor was arrested March 20 after leaving her two young sons in her car for about 45 minutes while she interviewed for a job with a Scottsdale insurance company. Authorities said the temperature inside the car exceeded 100 degrees. A witness found the infant crying hysterically and sweating profusely. She told investigators she didn’t have anyone to watch her then-2-year-old and 8-month-old sons.
Her situation, along with her mug shot, inspired a New Jersey woman to start an online fundraising campaign for her. Donations poured in.
She struck a deal with prosecutors in July that allowed her to avoid prosecution if she fulfilled a number of requirements, such as setting up the trust funds, taking parenting classes and completing a substance-abuse treatment program.
Prosecutors backed out of the deal after they say Taylor failed to put $60,000 in the trusts. Still, they gave her another chance by lowering the amount to $40,000 as they negotiated with her.
Taylor missed a Thursday deadline for putting money into the trust funds and told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp that she thought the deadline for making the deposits was Nov. 15.
Taylor’s attorneys, Benjamin Taylor and John Agra, asked the judge to remove them from the case. “This is a deal of a lifetime,” said a clearly frustrated Benjamin Taylor, who isn’t related to his client.
Taylor said she and her attorneys have experienced a “communication breakdown” in recent weeks.
The blown deadline has sparked criticism and speculation on social media. Some people say Taylor is not worthy of sympathy, while others have accused her of already spending the funds. But she also still has supporters who are giving her the benefit of the doubt.
Gary Braden of Phoenix donated twice to the online fund. He said her request to put less money into the trust funds doesn’t necessarily mean anything unethical is going on.
“They keep saying she spent it all. Then why would she offer to put up $35,000?” Braden said. “I put myself in her position. If I don’t have a job, I’m not going to put up a bunch of money that I can’t touch.”
Braden said he will continue to follow the case, but he has no regrets about opening his wallet.
“As far as I’m concerned, she could have burned the money. It wouldn’t have bothered me,” Braden said. “Whatever the person did with the gift, that’s on them.”
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