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Maine man held on charges of leaving children in hot car

Jeremiah Hollenbeck

Jeremiah Hollenbeck

A Maine man accused of leaving four children locked in a car while shoplifting in Franklin on Wednesday is being held on $50,000 cash bail at Merrimack County Department of Corrections.

Jeremiah Hollenbeck, 28, was arrested Wednesday outside Family Dollar on Central Street and charged with four counts of endangering the welfare of a child, one count of receiving stolen property and one count of possession of a controlled drug. He allegedly left the children in the car in 97-degree heat for at least 10 minutes while he was inside shopping. Hollenbeck is the father of two of the children, 9-month-old twins, and has custody of the other two, ages 5 and 9. All four have the same mother, Christine Lindsay, who is in drug treatment.

During a video arraignment yesterday at Franklin’s district court, Judge Edward Gordon entered pleas of not guilty on all six counts. He reduced Hollenbeck’s bail from $200,000 to $50,000 and said Hollenbeck can have no contact with the children. The children had been taken to Lakes Region General Hospital for treatment and were later picked up there by Hollenbeck’s father, who lives in North Berwick, Maine. Prosecutor Chris Ahern did not know the children’s current condition and could not say why Hollenbeck, who lives in Lebanon, Maine, was in Franklin yesterday.

A trial on the misdemeanor stealing and child endangerment charges is scheduled for Oct. 15. Hollenback is due back in district court next Friday for the felony drug possession charge, which will be bound over to superior court if probable cause is found. He said yesterday that neither he nor his father have the money to pay the $50,000 cash bail.

The police were alerted about the children in the car by a concerned passer-by just before 4 p.m., according to an affidavit filed by Franklin police Officer Kendall Wolfson. When they arrived, they found the vehicle parked on the pavement directly in the sun. There were two infants in car seats and a female juvenile in the backseat, while a male toddler sat in the front seat. Hollenbeck emerged from the store as one officer was trying to persuade the toddler to unlock the car door.

Hollenbeck allegedly told the officers he was in Family Dollar for only a few minutes and had been running the air conditioner before exiting the car. When he opened the windows to the vehicle, the two infants appeared to be sweating and it was hot inside the car, Wolfson’s report said. A witness at the scene said the children were in the car for more than 10 minutes. Hollenbeck’s shopping bag contained playing cards and sandwich bags, which a clerk inside the store verified he had purchased.

The police then handcuffed him and told him he was under arrest for multiple counts of endangering the welfare of a child. While searching Hollenbeck, the police found a purple iPhone case tucked into the waistband of his pants that he had not purchased. The police also located a metallic box in the driver’s side door containing a blue pill of oxycodone and a small piece of a straw with blue residue inside.

Hollenbeck appeared to be having a panic attack and was also taken to the hospital. After speaking with a representative from the Division for Children, Youth and Families, the police asked whether there was someone who could take the children. Hollenbeck said his father, Donald, could, and Donald later came to pick up the children. Hollenbeck declined medical care at the hospital and was transported to the Franklin Police Department for booking.

The state did not find any prior criminal history for Hollenbeck, and he said in court that he has never been the subject of a DCYF investigation. His bail conditions also included a waiver of extradition should he return to Maine between now and his future court dates.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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