Maybe the right thing is to leave someone else's car alone. But the righter thing is to rescue a screaming, overheated baby inside it. That's what two total strangers took it on themselves to do Tuesday afternoon in Howell, according to township police. The mother has a court hearing ahead.


Steve Eckel, 53, of Jackson, and Sarah Mazzone, 30, of Howell, in the parking lot of Kohl's at about 1 PM, both noticed the blue Nissan Sentra at about the same time, seeing a four-month-old girl inside, fully-clothed, turning bright red, sweating and crying, and partly covered by a blanket, police said.

Eckel pulled a sledgehammer from his car, smashed the Nissan's front passenger window, and unlocked it, after which he and Mazzone carried the infant into the store's air-controlled vestibule and called police.

Patrolmen Daniel Scherbinski and Edward Horniek responded to the call, finding the car with a smashed window and an empty child seat in the rear of the cabin. Then they found Eckel, Mazzone and the baby at the storefront. They estimated the temperature in the car to be in the upper 80s, about 10 degrees higher than outside.

During the ensuing discussion, the mother appeared, police said. Karen B. Gruen, 33, of Lakewood, saw her car and began to panic until officers advised her that her baby was safe.

Howell Township first-aiders tended the infant. Police learned that the baby was in the car for about 40 minutes.

Karen Gruen was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, and released to await court proceedings.

Howell PD Chief Andrew Kudrick said, ""I recognize the civilians who took immediate action to rescue this child, for they truly saved a life."

Sign Up For The WOBM Newsletter