Mom Cleared After Leaving Her Kids In Car

MEDINA, Ohio (AP) - A jury has acquitted a woman of child endangering for leaving her four children alone in a car this summer.

Stephanie Fusco, 29, of Wellington was found innocent guilty in Medina Municipal Court.

The verdict comes less than a month after a grand jury chose not to charge Todd Costello in the death of his 9-month-old son Tyler.

Costello said he forgot his son was in the back seat of the hot car when he went to work July 29.

The baby died of overheating in the car, which had all the windows closed. Costello's co-worker found him after about three hours.

Officials in Medina are worried that because of Costello's case, child endangering cases could become harder to prosecute.

"It (the Costello case) was staring me right in the face," said Medina Prosecutor Sharlene Zee, who prosecuted Fusco. "I respect the jury's findings, but by the same token, I believe she was child endangering."

Fusco was cited by Medina police July 30 with child endangering when they found four children, ages 4 months to 12 years, in her car. The front windows were down, and the key was in the ignition, though the car was not running. The children were in the car about 15 minutes, and none were injured.

The charge is punishable by up to 6 months in jail.

Jurors in the Fusco case said Wednesday that they were aware of the Costello case, but that it did not play a major role in their decision to clear Fusco.

"I didn't even think it should have gone to trial," juror Shirleen Franscisco of Medina said. "All of us agreed it was bad judgment, but we didn't think it was reckless."

Fusco's husband Richard said Wednesday he didn't understand why his wife was charged and Costello wasn't.

"When there are laws established, they should be applied to everyone evenly," he said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)