It took 10 months for police to get the full details from the 10 children Sheri Marshall abandoned by the highway.
As WJLA News reported, on Dec. 16, 2016, Marshall was taking 10 of her 13 children to their grandmother’s house when she got in an argument with her 12-year-old son. When things became heated, the 36-year-old mother from Maryland stopped her minivan alongside Interstate 495 and kicked the boy out of the car.
Marshall then drove off, leaving the 12-year-old on the side of the highway. He was able to contact relatives, who later picked him up. Marshall, however, didn’t go far. Her car ran out of gas alongside East-West Highway in Takoma Park, Maryland.
Though they were in an area with stores, gas stations, and restaurants, Marshall didn’t get help. Instead she and the remaining nine children spent the next day-and-a-half living in the van.
Temperatures dropped into the 20s on those cold winter nights, leading to chilly conditions inside the car where the nine children (aged 1 to 11) slept. On the morning of Dec. 18, the children awoke to find that they were alone. Marshall had abandoned them in the cold minivan.
The children were able to find enough loose change in the van to buy juice, cookies, and diapers at a nearby gas station. But by the time evening arrived, the kids were cold and hungry. Together, they walked to a nearby restaurant, La Chiquita, where staff fed the kids and called authorities.
Though a few of the children had dirty diapers (or pants), police were surprised to find them in good spirits and otherwise unharmed.
As the police questioned the children, they learned that Marshall had been acting erratically, taking them for walks at four in the morning. The mother was later found wandering aimlessly in traffic, unable to communicate. Tests determined she was under the influence of illegal drugs.
All of the children were placed with relatives and are reportedly doing well. Marshall was recently charged with nine counts of leaving a child unattended and nine counts of child neglect.
According to Fox 5 DC News, the 10-month delay between Marshall’s arrest and the official charges are due to the time it took to fully interview all of the children about the traumatic incident. In addition, the children had to be placed with family members.
Marshall underwent a psychological evaluation, but investigators believe drug use — not mental health issues — is the main explanation for her actions.
Marshall is currently petitioning to regain custody of her children, but a judge has yet to rule on her case.
One of Marshall’s neighbors told WJLA it appeared she could not handle caring for so many children:
“It’s a terrible thing to do. This is the best country in the world and for us to not be able to do something about this woman who keeps having children.”
They added: “Whatever her problems are, they need to be addressed.”
Watch the report below.