‘Amnesia Mom’ Says Ambien May Be to Blame
(MIAMI) -- The Colorado mom who says she doesn't remember abandoning her two young sons in a van and walking for 12 miles has reported another case of amnesia to police in which she says she unknowingly sold treasured family heirlooms to a local pawn shop.
The statement by Sarah Hatfield comes as she pled not guilty in court Thursday on two charges of misdemeanor child abuse related to the Jan. 28 incident in which she left her two young sons, ages 2 and 4, at a Thornton, Colo., gas station.
Hatfield, 26, claims her last memory from that day is sitting in her van with her sons at the gas station. Nearly 12 hours later, around midnight, she arrived outside the National Jewish Hospital in Denver, appearing disoriented as she asked a security guard to use a phone to call home, according to police.
Police found the two boys, as well as Hatfield's wallet, cell phone and keys in her abandoned van in the gas station parking lot after responding to a call. They say her husband, Matthew, also reported a handgun missing from the family's home.
The couple reported to police this week that a local pawn shop notified them that a loan was due related to two necklaces and a ring that the shop says Sarah Hatfield pawned two weeks before the van incident. The store has surveillance video showing Hatfield in the store on Jan. 10 but her husband says she has no memory of being there.
"When Sarah walked into the pawn shop [to question the loan] she said that she had no recollection of ever being in there before and she believed it was the first time she'd been in there," Matthew Hatfield told ABC News.
"They [the pawn shop] wouldn't tell us any information so we called the police and the shop released the information and the video to the police," he said. "It certainly appeared to be her on the surveillance video."
Matthew Hatfield says the incident builds his wife's case that she did not knowingly abandon the couple's children and rules out the idea floated by doctors after the Jan. 28 incident that a condition known as "transient global amnesia" could be the cause of his wife's memory loss.
"It does speak to the fact that her inability to recall events has happened more than once," he said. "We're still waiting for follow up with neurologists. She's also going to be undergoing an in-depth psychological evaluation."
The psychological evaluation, Matthew Hatfield said, comes at the request of Child Protection Services which has ordered his wife to not be left alone unsupervised with the couple's children.
Hatfield says the family is now looking more closely at withdrawal from the insomnia medication, Ambien, as a possible cause for his wife's memory loss. The otherwise healthy Hatfield has a history of insomnia and debilitating migraines, the latter of which she's being treated for.
"Sarah had been taking Ambien for about two months and she stopped taking it in mid-January when her prescription ran out," Matthew Hatfield said. "The effect of Ambien withdrawal can also describe what she experienced and, based on our research, can also last for months."
"Ambien is a drug you're supposed to step down from and she didn't do that," he said. "If you step off it properly you're supposed to minimize those withdrawal side effects but she didn't so we believe that may be a cause because the timeline fits and the symptoms fit as well."
Hatfield's trial date is set for June 14. She could face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Thornton, Colo., police are not commenting on the case, saying it is still an active investigation.
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