Bill Montgomery

Hot-Car Mom Shanesha Taylor to Appear on Dr. Phil Show

The Arizona woman who gained fame by earning $114,000 in donations after her arrest for leaving her two kids in a hot car will appear on the "Dr. Phil Show" this Thursday.

Shanesha Taylor's appearance on the popular, nationally syndicated TV show comes a week after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge sentenced her to 18 years' probation following her admission of guilt to one count of felony child abuse.

"She Left Her Babies Alone in a Car: Criminal or Mom Misunderstood?" says a tease on the show's website.

The website blurb continues: "Phoenix mom Shanesha made headlines last year after she was charged with felony child abuse for leaving her two young sons in a hot car during a job interview. She opens up to Dr. Phil — in hindsight, does she think she made a mistake? Plus, how does she respond to allegations that she has misused donations from supporters?"

We hope Dr. Phil had a couple of boxes of Kleenex handy for her.

Taylor was arrested in March of 2014 after leaving her 6-month-old and 2-year-old kids in her Dodge Durango for 70 minutes. A third child was at school.

A police officer, responding to a call from a witness, found the car unlocked with the kids inside, the key in the ignition and hot air blowing through the vents. Though it was only in the low 80s or high 70s, temperature-wise, the interior of the Dodge was much hotter. The baby and toddler were crying, but were unhurt in the incident.

Following her arrest in March of 2014, her tearful mugshot spurred a fundraising effort that turned epic. Gullible members of the public sympathized with the 35-year-old because she was at a job interview. With all that money pouring in, though, Taylor's job-hunting efforts reportedly stalled.

Jarrett Maupin, a local civil rights activist who helped Taylor negotiate a deferred-prosecution agreement with Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, told New Times that Taylor spurned offers of employment in the ensuing months. If Taylor put $60,000 of her new-found fortune in trust funds for her children and took a parenting class, she'd face no prosecution, Montgomery decided.

In the ensuing months, Maupin said, Taylor spurned offers of employment. Maupin said Taylor spent much of the money on extravagant living expenses, including the production of a rap album for her boyfriend, who's also her three kids' baby-daddy.

Maupin says he's also on the Dr. Phil Show with Taylor.

In a New York Times article last year, Taylor shed tears and blamed the economy for her troubles. Writer Shaila Dewan tried valiantly to prop up Taylor's excuses by interviewing an economist and quoting statistics concerning childcare subsidies. As we pointed out in a June 2014 article, the NY Times piece inadvertently exposed Taylor's history of bad judgment, leading us to predict that Taylor's situation would take a turn for the worst. We were right: A few months later, Taylor had failed to fund the trusts, and prosecutors filed a motion indicating they believed she'd squandered the contributions.

Montgomery gave her one more chance, lowering the amount she'd need to put in the trusts. Taylor failed herself and her kids again. Her prosecution was reinstated, leading to the guilty plea and last week's sentencing.

Little about the case is "Mom misunderstood." The former Air Force woman and — reportedly — college graduate isn't a typical "criminal," either. But now she's a criminal on paper, anyway. Future employers will likely ask about that felony child-abuse conviction. Most egregiously, her bad decision-making may have made life tougher for her three kids.

Whoops — make that four kids. According to recent court records, her fourth child will be born "any day" now.

For a time, the jobless Taylor was spending $4,172 a month, with more than $1,000 each month spent on "non-essential" items like clothing, records state.

In her sentencing memorandum, Valeria Llewellyn, Taylor's attorney, asked for 10 years' probation and gives a hint of the "woe is me" mentality we'll probably see on Thursday's Dr. Phil Show. Llewellyn wrote the court that the scrutiny, criticism and "vilification" by the news media and some members of the public have been enough of a "penalty."

Everyone's been focused on "the money," Llewellyn complained in the memo. The six-digit fortune "should have been a private matter from the beginning," she wrote.

A preview of her interview with Dr. Phil depicts Taylor suggesting that if she had funded the trusts, she would have "risked not being able to take care of my children.... I think I'm better off having the means to be able to take care of my children."

Attorney Benjamin Taylor, no relation to Shanesha Taylor, says he did what he could for the woman during the negotiations with Montgomery.

"We worked hard to get her children back, and we got them back," he says. "We were happy to be able to give her the opportunity to get her felony charges dismissed, so she'd have no record, and happy to work pro bono."

Shanesha Taylor now has to adhere to a long set of probationary rules for the next 18 years. 

We'd like to be optimistic. For the kids' sake.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.