Mother arrested for leaving sons in car

LEESBURG -- A woman was arrested Sunday afternoon after Lee County sheriff's deputies responded to a call of two small children locked inside a car at Wal-Mart.

Lee County Sheriff Reggie Rachels said around 1 p.m. deputies arrived at Wal-Mart on Ledo Road after receiving a call from witnesses that there was crying coming from a locked mini-van in the parking lot.

According to Lee County sheriff's deputies, witnesses said that a 3-month-old boy and a 2-year-old boy had been inside the locked vehicle for up to an hour and the younger child was crying.

"The deputies got there and unlocked the vehicle and got the boys out," said Rachels. "They were OK, but they were sweating pretty profusely."

"The front windows were cracked about three inches, but that is not enough to allow any significant airflow into the vehicle to cool them off," Rachels said.

Deputies said when they arrived at Wal-Mart, several people were standing around the vehicle and one man said he was thinking about trying to knock out a window to get the children out when the police arrived.

The boys' mother, Reggie Medina-Cella, 38, came out of the discount store while deputies were unlocking the mini-van, said Rachels.

"She (Medina-Cella) did come out and apologized and promised that it would never happen again, but as careless as this act was, we did not have a choice but to arrest her," he said.

Rachels said Medina-Cella told deputies that the reason she left her children in the hot car while she went into Wal-Mart was because the 2-year-old boy had a habit of wandering away from her while she shopped.

Medina-Cella was charged with two counts of reckless conduct and was transported to the Lee County Jail.

Deputies called the children's father, Robert Cella, to retrieve the boys.

Temperatures were in the 70s Sunday afternoon, but according to research conducted by San Francisco State University, even with relatively cool temperatures outside, the inside of a car can reach a dangerous temperature within minutes.

The inside of a vehicle can rise 19 degrees above the outside temperature in just 10 minutes. After an hour, the temperature inside and outside of a vehicle can differ by 45 degrees or more - even if the window is left open a crack. When left in a hot vehicle, a young child's core body temperature may increase three to five times faster than that of an adult.

Rachels said the act if leaving a child in a hot vehicle doesn't happen very often, but it is a bad practice, especially in the South, where temperatures can reach in the 100s easily inside a vehicle.