By Shereen Siewert
A Schofield father who left his child for 10 hours in a vehicle with internal temperatures soaring to more than 135 degrees will avoid prison if he complies with a written agreement reached with prosecutors last month.
Zachary Wakeen was 22 when he left the boy strapped in a car seat with the windows rolled up in July 2019 while outside temperatures soared to 82 degrees, according to court documents. Wakeen was asleep while the boy was trapped in the vehicle.
Wakeen was formally charged Aug. 2, 2019 in Marathon County Circuit Court with felony child neglect, possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia. He remained jailed until March 6, when he was released after posting a $25,000 cash bond.
Officers received a 911 call at 12:11 p.m. Sunday, July 28, 2019 requesting an ambulance at a home in Schofield. When they arrived, they discovered a mother holding a young child in her arms. Police say the 2-year-old boy was left in the vehicle from 2 a.m. until about noon.
According to the criminal complaint:
Wakeen told police he drove to his parents’ home at around 2 a.m. on July 28 and picked up his child. Upon returning to his residence a short time later, Wakeen made two trips in and out of the car “unloading stuff” and went back into the home. Then, Wakeen said, he “forgot” the boy in the car. Wakeen told police he “sat down for a second” on the couch and “fell asleep” and that it was all “a blur.”
Upon waking, Wakeen said he wondered where his child was and then it “clicked” that he had left the child secured in his car seat in the car in the driveway, the complaint states. Wakeen said he ran to the car and got the child and brought him in to the house where he and the child’s mother tried to cool him down in the bathroom. The child’s mother began CPR and Wakeen called 911.
Officers used a thermal meter in Wakeen’s vehicle with the meter pointed on the car seat where the child had been strapped in and recorded the temperature at 135.8 degrees, according to the police report.
When the child arrived at what is now Marshfield Medical Center in Weston, doctors determined the boy was in critical condition. He was airlifted to Marshfield Children’s Hospital for treatment.
The child’s mother was at home and sleeping during the child’s ordeal, police said.
During a plea hearing Dec. 22, Circuit Judge Greg Huber dismissed the drug-related charges as part of the agreement and Wakeen pleaded no contest to felony child neglect where the consequence is great bodily harm. The deferred entry of judgment means if Wakeen follows all the rules of the agreement and has no new criminal charges for five years, the state will amend the felony charge to misdemeanor child neglect, along with one count of negligent operation of a vehicle.
A bond modification hearing is set for Wednesday, Jan. 20 and the court will review Wakeen’s case in 2025.