Couple left kids in cold car at Sands Casino in Bethlehem

While the region endured single digit wind chills earlier this week, police said two children were struggling to stay warm inside a cold car while their parents gambled.

Officers were dispatched at 3:21 a.m. Monday to the second level of the Sands Casino parking garage in Bethlehem for the report of two children left alone inside a car that had been turned off for several hours, according to court documents released Wednesday.
The outside temperature at the time was approximately 11 degrees, with a wind chill of one degree above zero, police said. “I like to go to the casino, but I wouldn’t leave no kids,” said Carmelo Natoli, the couple’s next door neighbor.
The casino’s surveillance cameras captured video of the children and their parents, identified by police as Enrique and Frances Garcia, arriving at the casino at approximately 12:33 a.m., according to court documents.

The father came out twice — first at 1:35 a.m. and again at 2:35 a.m. — to check on the children, but he never turned on the car, said police, adding that the children had only jackets to keep them warm inside the blue 2002 Honda Accord.
Enrique Garcia, 49, and Frances Garcia, 45, both of the 1300 block of Muhlenberg Street in Reading, were each charged with endangering the welfare of children, a first-degree misdemeanor.
The casino’s surveillance cameras captured video of the children and their parents, identified by police as Enrique and Frances Garcia, arriving at the casino at approximately 12:33 a.m., according to court documents. The father came out twice — first at 1:35 a.m. and again at 2:35 a.m. — to check on the children, but he never turned on the car, said police, adding that the children had only jackets to keep them warm inside the blue 2002 Honda Accord. E
nrique Garcia, 49, and Frances Garcia, 45, both of the 1300 block of Muhlenberg Street in Reading, were each charged with endangering the welfare of children, a first-degree misdemeanor. Loved ones closed the door and did not want to answer any questions Wednesday.
Dr. Charles Barbera, chairman of the emergency department at Reading Hospital, said no one should be left in a cold car, and the situation can turn troublesome fairly quickly. “If someone is not prepared, they could feel the effects of 11-degree temperatures within a half hour and you could see some really profound effects,” Barbera said. The couple is free on bail. A judge has ordered them not to have any contact with the children or to visit another casino until their case is disposed of.

Police said they did not know the children’s ages. There are no signs posted in the Sands Casino parking garage alerting parents not to leave their kids in the car, but security checks are done regularly, according to casino officials. The casino said it is not sure if security guards or a guest noticed the Garcia children early Monday morning, but once the discovery was made, it alerted Bethlehem police immediately.

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