A Publix customer was startled to find a woman slumped over in the driver’s seat of a car next to two sweating children, on a day with a heat index over 99 degrees.
That customer summoned Polk County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Lane Meachum who found Marsha Nicole Forrester, 36, unresponsive with pinpoint pupils and labored breathing, according to a Polk County Sheriff’s Office affidavit. The car, in a Winter Haven parking lot, was running but its A/C was off. Two children, both younger than 5, next to Forrester, were crying and sweating, Meachum said he saw.
Forrester was also pregnant.
She was removed from the car and got two doses of Narcan for symptoms of a narcotics overdose. Then Forrester was rushed to a local hospital, where she had an emergency C-section when doctors determined the baby’s vital signs were compromised.
Forrester and the baby both tested positive for cocaine, the arrest report said. The baby was transferred to St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital in Tampa in critical condition.
Forrester, a certified nursing assistant in Bartow County with a previous arrest record on misdemeanor charges of battery and prostitution and a felony robbery charge, told Polk deputy Michael Brooks she had used cocaine several times in the two days prior to her arrest on Thursday.
“She stated that she picked up [the children] from day care in Lakeland and stopped by the Circle K by Publix where she used cocaine,” Brooks wrote in the arrest report. Forrester was interviewed by deputies in the hospital after the C-section surgery.
“Marsha stated that she went into the bathroom at the Circle K to use the cocaine and left [the children] in the car because she did not want to do it in front of them. She was able to drive over to Publix and park but was almost immediately unable to keep herself awake,” the affidavit said.
“She also admitted to using cocaine at the beginning of her current pregnancy but stopped using until two days ago. She stated that she has never had a reaction like this before,” the report said.
“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,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a news release on Friday.
The children were safely removed from the car and were not injured, according to the sheriff’s department.
According to the National Weather Service, the temperature around 3:50 p.m. Thursday in that part of Winter Haven was 90 degrees with a heat index of 99.
Forrester was arrested and charged with three counts of negligent child abuse without great bodily harm and booked into Polk County Jail. She is still being held on a total bail of $30,000.