Zakaria Moustafa, 51, has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child he left a 6-year-old girl alone in a vehicle overnight in Jersey City, authorities said yesterday.
The girl was unattended in the unlocked vehicle from 1 a.m. to 10 a.m. — roughly nine hours — on June 23, 2019 when security officers from Saint Peter’s University found her, according to witnesses at the scene. The child was taken to the Jersey City Medical Center to be evaluated and she was in good health Monday, a Jersey City spokesperson said.
The Moustafas allegedly got home Sunday morning at 1 a.m. from a family gathering. The father parked the car on the street adjacent to the university, which is what they usually do since it’s a short walk to their house.
The vehicle, an SUV, was parked on Montgomery Street between Kennedy Boulevard and West Side Avenue, next to the university, Jersey City spokesperson Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said. The night was overcast, but the inside of the vehicle was warm when authorities rescued the girl.
A freelance photographer for The Jersey Journal said he was told by a witness that the driver was seen on security camera footage parking the car there at 1 a.m. and walking away.
Rawan Moustafa, the child’s 17-year-old sister, said that she and her family saw the six-year-old get out of the car with them. But just moments after, the girl went back inside the vehicle because she was tired.
Rawan said that no one realized the girl was missing until hours later when they woke up to police questioning them. She said that her and her family thought the six-year-old had slept on the couch, which is what she does sometimes.
Now, a week later, the girl is well and back at the house, but is not allowed to see her father until his next court date on July 15.
Rawan Moustafa said that charges should be dropped against her father because it was not done on purpose. “It sounds crazy to even think that a father would discipline a child by locking them in a car while it’s hot outside,” she said.
“Nothing like this has ever happened before,” she said. “It was all an accident…We’re not the type of people to harm anyone.”