Homeless woman arrested in Christmas night car theft on Main Street

A Selden woman had a harrowing Christmas night, after police say her car, with a sleeping child in the back, was stolen when she left it running and unlocked outside a Main Street stationery store in Riverhead shortly after 11 p.m. 

An extensive search ensued, with New York State troopers joining Riverhead and Southampton police, and the 2016 Ford Fusion, with the child still asleep, was recovered in Flanders, according to officials. 

Police later arrested Shawanna A. James, 51, described in a press release as a homeless person who frequents the Riverhead area. Ms. James was charged with third-degree grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and endangering the welfare of a child. 

The 39-year-old woman whose car was stolen told police she left it running to keep the heat on while the child slept. She was also arrested on a charge of endangering the welfare of a child for leaving the child “unattended in the unlocked vehicle,” according to police. 

The woman’s identity was withheld by authorities to protect the identity of the child, who was ultimately turned over to a family member, unharmed, officials said. Police are asking anyone with information about the incident to contact the Riverhead Police Department. Employees at the stationery store declined comment.