POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A pregnant Winter Haven woman was charged with child abuse after she overdosed in a Publix parking lot and was required to undergo an emergency cesarean section, authorities said.
Marsha Forrester, 36, was found in a hot car with two children in the backseat at a Publix on Spirit Lake Road, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s office.
She was 38 weeks pregnant, Sheriff Grady Judd said.
Investigators say Forrester had stopped at a nearby Circle K after picking up her children in Lakeland. She went inside to use cocaine and left the kids in the car. Then she got back into the car and drove across the parking lot to the Publix and passed out.
A passerby saw Forrester and the children in the car and notified a Publix employee.
Polk County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Lance Meachum happened to be there grabbing lunch and was flagged down to help.
“I went over there to the passengers window noticed two small children, looked like they were in obvious distress, sweating profusely, crying, very upset. I did notice an unresponsive female in the drivers seat,” he said.
The car was running with the air conditioning turned off.
“We estimate the temperature was 90 degrees in the parking lot and 99 degrees in the car where the children were trapped inside,” said Sheriff Judd.
“You go from zero to one hundred immediately then instincts just kick in. You know, I saw that she wasn’t breathing inadequately. A few more minutes, and she may have passed away along with the unborn child and I knew I needed to act quick,” said Meachum.
Forrester was given two doses of Narcan, a treatment for an opioid overdose, then rushed to the hospital to undergo an emergency cesarean section.
“She confessed to our detectives,” said Sheriff Judd. “She said ‘you know, I’ve been using cocaine for a couple of days. Interestingly enough, it didn’t have this ill effect on me but this last buy of cocaine affected me a lot worse’.”
The baby is said to be in critical condition.
“If it hadn’t been for a bag boy, a good citizen and a batt chief, we would have had this lady kill herself, and three children and one may die yet. If that baby dies, we are going to seek murder charges against her,” said Sheriff Judd.
The other children were not injured.
Forrester told investigators she had used cocaine several times over the past two days.
She was released from the hospital and arrested and charged with two counts of negligent child abuse without great bodily harm.
A judge set bond at $15,000 for each count.
Sheriff Judd said a third count, related to the newborn baby, was filed Friday morning.
Authorities say Forrester was previously arrested for felony robbery and misdemeanor prostitution and battery.
“I’m both furious and heartbroken about this. Two small children and a baby who was due to be born soon were put into serious danger all because this woman wanted to get high. She chose cocaine over the safety of these little ones,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
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