Natasha Graver wept thinking of what could have happened to her 4-month-old daughter, Briele. The 32-year-old mother left the girl in her hot car on Saturday for hours.
"I don't want to be this emotional," said Graver, wiping away tears.
Joined by her husband, Brian, and attorney, Amanda Bettker-Nicholson of the Fleming Law Group, Graver acknowledged she made a horrible mistake.
The mother of six said she would never intentionally hurt any of her kids, who range in age from 13 to 4 months.
"I was not in a good state of mind. I had been crying for weeks straight. I just was not myself," Graver said.
Graver lost her father to cancer in May, she said, and the recent death of three women in her community, all moms killed by a wrong way driver, put her in horrible place.
The women had six kids total and she could relate, she said. She wanted to go to their funeral. Knowing it would be emotionally draining, she thought she had dropped off all her children at her aunt's home. But that wasn't the case.
“I'm a mother and I'm supposed to protect her. But it was a mistake. I did not mean to do it. I should have triple checked," said Graver. "I thought everyone was in the house. I even carried in the baby's diaper bag. But I left her in the car, and I take full responsibility."
Graver parked the car under a tree at a funeral home and she left the baby with the windows rolled up and the engine off, she said. She then left the service an hour and half later to pick up her husband. She went into her home for nearly another hour. When they both went outside, they noticed the baby.
"I heard her coo and my heart stopped," said Graver. "I was screaming then, telling my husband to get ice water. I got a fan. She was sweaty but looking directly at me. She seemed OK, but I am not a doctor, and I was not going to take any chances with my baby. So, I called 911."
After the couple arrived at the hospital, so did DCF investigators and police. St. Petersburg officers informed Brian Graver first that they would be arresting his wife.
"I was in shock," he said. "This was an accident and this seemed so unfair. She is the best mom ever. She is supermom."
"I was crying saying, ‘Please, my baby needs me more than anything," the mother said. "But I did not fight officers. I went with them."
Graver does not have a criminal history.
Mike Puetz, a spokesman for the St. Petersburg Police Department, said the officers felt this warranted a felony charge of child abuse.
“I know the mother said that she just forgot, [but] this is not something we can take lightly,” he said. “Obviously she will have her day in court and can explain it to a judge and jury.”
Bettker-Nicholson hopes it does not get that far. She wants to get the case dismissed.
"People need to understand that life is hectic and chaotic. Sometimes we can't keep an eye on our children all the time. An accident is an accident. But she's a good mom and she loves all of her children," said Bettker-Nicholson.
Graver said right now she is focused on Briele and wants to make sure this does not happen to other moms. She's already reached out to her church and hopes to speak to other parent groups.
A woman of deep faith, she said she knows in her heart that her late father was looking after her child and now she wants to pay it back.
"I know he was there with her. You know he would never have let that happen to her," said Graver. "I wish I could talk to him about this, but he would want me to prevent this from happening to another mom or dad."