Wine-tasting US couple 'left toddlers in freezing car'

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A couple allegedly left their two toddlers marooned in a car and strapped into their seats in near-freezing temperatures while attending a wine-tasting event in an upmarket Washington restaurant, US police said.

Jennie Chang, 46 — who works for the US Food and Drug Administration — and Christopher Lucas, 41, were arrested Saturday and charged with attempted child cruelty after someone saw the small children alone in the car and called police.

An officer looked into the Volvo and saw the youngsters, aged 22 months and 2.5 years, strapped into their seats.

“Both children were wearing coats, but neither were wearing gloves or hats. One of the children, a small girl, was hysterically crying,” a police report said, noting the temperature was about 35 degrees Fahrenheit (1.7 Celsius.)

As police figured out how to get into the locked car, Lucas emerged from the restaurant and told officers that he had been monitoring the children via an iPhone.

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The call had been connected for 58 minutes, police said.

The Washington Post reported that the parents live in an expensive neighborhood not far from the restaurant.

Court documents reviewed by the Post state that Lucas, a software engineer, is originally from France and Chang works for the US Food and Drug Administration.

The children, who were not physically harmed, were placed in protective custody and the parents jailed until they appeared before a judge Monday, when they pleaded not guilty and were released.

The parents were barred from seeing their young children before their next court date on February 18.