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Bismarck mother pleads guilty to leaving children in car

Bismarck mother pleads guilty to leaving children in car


A Bismarck woman told a South Central District Court judge on Tuesday that she left her children alone in a hot car to shoplift at Wal-Mart, 2717 Rock Island Place, because it was her son's birthday.

Judge Sonna Anderson ordered Dawn Morsette, 24, to perform 25 hours of community service after she pleaded guilty to felony child neglect. If Morsette fails to find full-time employment in 30 days, she will be required to perform an additional 25 hours of community service.

Anderson also imposed an 18-month deferred imposition of sentence and required that Morsette complete a parenting course through Burleigh County Social Services. If Morsette completes the 18-month period with no violations, the felony charge will be erased from her record. If she violates any of the conditions, she could be re-sentenced to up to five years.

Morsette was arrested on June 5, after multiple people called the Bismarck Police Department to report two small children, ages 5 and 3, were left alone in a locked vehicle. At Tuesday's hearing, Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney Dawn Deitz said witnesses reported the children were left in the car for at least 35 minutes, with temperatures that day at around 75 degrees with 51 percent humidity. 

According to report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "within the first 10 minutes, the temperature of an enclosed vehicle will rise an average of 19 degrees."

"Ms. Morsette, do you understand those children are way too young to be left alone in a vehicle?" Anderson asked, following Morsette's tearful admission.

Morsette's attorney, public defender Grant Walker, told Anderson that the day prior, the father of Morsette's children assaulted Morsette and took all her money. With June 5 being her son's birthday, Morsette was shoplifting for a present for him, Walker said. Police reports at the time state that Morsette stole an estimated $40 worth of merchandise then attempted to get a refund for it at the returns counter.

"I'm not a bad mother. I'm a really good mom," Morsette told Anderson.

Deitz told Anderson that she supported the deferred sentence because she had a relatively light criminal history, with no previous felony convictions.

(Reach Andrew Sheeler at 701-250-8225 or


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