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Woman Charged With Leaving Dogs In Hot Car For Nearly 20 Hours Dies; Family To Sue

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Sharon Mulcahy
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Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—She made headlines when police arrested her for leaving her two dogs in a sweltering car for hours last month but her family members say there’s a lot more to the story—including an explanation that now has them angry with police.

Derek Valcourt explains what went so wrong.

That woman is now dead and her family says it’s all because police took her to Central Booking instead of to an emergency room, where she needed to be.

Sixty-two-year-old Sharon Mulcahy loved her two poodles, Missy and Bear, which is why news that she left her beloved pets in a car on a scorching day was so shocking to her family.

“I knew she would have went back out. She would never have left her dogs like that,” said Helena Smith Unbarger, Mulcahy’s mother.

But after leaving her mother’s house, Mulcahy became so ill she checked into a hotel where dogs weren’t allowed and passed out before she could tend to her pets. Employees at the hotel found the dogs in the car—one of them was already dead—and police arrested Mulcahy.

In Central Booking, she was placed in the medical unit, where a public defender snapped a picture.

“Clearly the photos show this woman was not in a condition to be in jail,” said attorney David Ellin.

Her family attorney says shortly after her release from jail, Mulcahy lapsed into a coma and died.

Her surviving dog Bear was badly dehydrated. He was rushed to Baltimore’s Animal Rescue and Care Shelter and has since been released back to her family.

Tuesday, Mulcahy’s family took her death certificate to court to have the charges dismissed. As attorneys explained her death, the judge—unaware her family was in the courtroom—quipped, “Well, that’s one way to avoid prosecution.”

Her family’s attorneys say they are exploring possible lawsuits against the city of Baltimore and healthcare providers at the jail.

“Had she been given the appropriate medical care and taken to a hospital…she would be alive today,” said Ellin.

“They should have taken her to the hospital,” said Unbarger.

The Department of Corrections declined to comment for this story.

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