Man charged with leaving daughter in car overnight; family says it was a ‘mistake’

A New Jersey man has been charged with leaving his 6-year-old daughter in a car overnight in what the girl’s older sister said was a “mistake.”

Zakaria Moustafa, 51, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child in relation to the June 17 incident. His daughter, 17-year-old Rawan Moustafa, told she believes the charges should be dropped, because her younger sister wasn't left in the car on purpose.

"Nothing like this has ever happened before," she said. "It was all an accident ... We're not the type of people to harm anyone."

Rawan Moustafa said the family had returned home from a family gathering around 1 a.m. June 17, and that they saw the 6-year-old get out of the car with them. Moments later, the girl went back to the car because she was “tired,” Rawan Moustafa said.

Security officers from St. Peter's University noticed the girl in the car and called for help, News 12 New Jersey reported. She was left unattended for about nine hours -- from 1 a.m. to 10 a.m., according to

The family didn’t realize the girl was gone until police began questioning them hours later, Rawan Moustafa said. The family assumed the girl had slept on the couch, as she does sometimes, she said.

The girl was taken to a hospital and was in good health, Jersey City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione told She’s now back home and isn’t allowed to see her father until his next court date, July 15.

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