‘Our son is dead’: Witness overhears father, who Cobb police say forgot 22-month-old child was in back seat of car
by Ellen Eldridge and Emily Boorstein
June 19, 2014 01:44 AM | 22754 views | 13 13 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb County police investigate the death of a 22-month-old child Wednesday at a shopping center off Akers Mill Road. Police say the child was left in the blue Hyundai Tucson, left, while the father was at work. <br> Staff/Jeff Stanton
Cobb County police investigate the death of a 22-month-old child Wednesday at a shopping center off Akers Mill Road. Police say the child was left in the blue Hyundai Tucson, left, while the father was at work.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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CUMBERLAND — Check your car. Then check it again.

That’s what a state official is urging parents and others who care for small children to do after police said a toddler died after being left in a parked car all day near Cumberland Mall on Wednesday.

“A distraught man pulled a 22-month-old out of the back seat and attempted to administer first aid,” said Sgt. Dana Pierce with Cobb County police, who said officers responded within minutes to a 911 call from the Akers Mill Square strip mall off of Akers Mill Road. The names of the father and child, and the child’s gender, have not been released.

Pierce said the child was fed at 8:15 a.m. before leaving home with the father in a blue Hyundai Tucson.

“He dropped one child off at day care and went to work in a corporate environment,” Pierce said. Police believe the father forgot the other child was still in the car. They have not said where he worked.

The father discovered the child was in the car shortly after 4 p.m., when he was driving home, Pierce said, and pulled into the parking lot behind Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint. The father entered the restaurant, asking people to call 911, employee Rodney Smith said.

Two men were trying to perform CPR when the police showed up, Smith said.

“‘What did I do? My baby’s dead,’” Smith said the father said. Then, the father got on his cell phone, and Smith said he heard the man tell his wife, “Our son is dead.”

Authorities said the child was pronounced dead at the scene.

Pierce said the father had to be physically restrained before he was taken by police to Cobb Police Headquarters for questioning.

“Obviously, a very stressful and disturbing situation,” Pierce said, noting temperatures had been “topping 93 all day.” Pierce said a car heats up quickly to temperatures as high as 135 degrees in a matter of minutes when in direct sunlight.

“Whether pet or human, they can become medically exhausted very quickly,” Pierce said.

Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb) said she happened to drive by the scene as police were investigating and was was noticeably shaken by the incident.

“I just don’t understand what could be going on in a parent’s mind that they could let something like this happen,” said Cooper, a registered nurse. “What job is that important … what text message, what phone call?”

The problem is, people assume “this will never happen to me,” said Reg Griffin, the chief communication officer with Bright From the Start, a division of the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, which he said oversees and inspects 6,000 child care centers in the state.

But it does happen.

Griffin said Wednesday’s incident is the eighth heat-related death of a Georgia child who was left behind or trapped in a car since 2010.

Since 1998, more than 600 children in the U.S. have died in similar cases, Griffin said.

He also said a majority of heatstroke deaths involving cars happen when children are in their parents’ care.

“We’re so distracted by text messages, by phone calls, by just the daily rush of getting to work,” Griffin said.

“Transporting your child might be something that’s out of your usual routine and this can happen pretty quickly.”

Griffin offered tips to remind drivers a child is in the back seat.

One suggestion he gave was to keep a stuffed animal in a child’s car seat when they are not traveling with you. When the child is in the car, he said to put the stuffed animal in the passenger seat.

Or, “put something back there that you know you’re going to need,” Griffin said, such as a laptop, purse, jacket or briefcase.

The best practice, Griffin said, is to “always check your vehicle. The back seat and the front seat” and even under the seat, he said, “and when you’re done, check again.”

Griffin also said drivers should also lock their doors, so unattended children don’t climb in and get trapped in them.

While Pierce said no charges had been filed as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, District Attorney Vic Reynolds said charges could range from reckless conduct to voluntary manslaughter.

“The idea of literally forgetting a child in a vehicle is hard to understand,” Reynolds said. The District Attorney’s office will look very closely at this case once it’s filed, Reynolds said.

“I’m very concerned about this case,” he said.

Reynolds wasn’t the only one to weigh in on Wednesday’s events.

Smith, who is father to a 1-year-old boy, said he feels angry and sad at the same time.

“It’s 99 percent impossible to just forget your child in a car,” Smith said. “Not unless you meant to do it.”

Witness Jennifer Delahoussaye, who has worked 44 years as a flight attendant, said she thinks people are too overworked and stressed.

“I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but if he dropped one off ...,” Delahoussaye said, adding there are too many distractions in our world. “Human beings are losing the ability to make wise decisions because of too much overtaxing on the brain.”

Cooper said she couldn’t imagine “what can be so distracting that we forget a child,” and that children’s safety should be a priority.

Regarding the father’s fate, “I would have to believe (the legal ramifications) will never compare to the guilt he will have to feel for the rest of his life,” Cooper said.

Comments
(13)
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someone who knows..
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June 23, 2014
My heart truly goes out to this man and his wife. Our grandson climbed into an unlocked car and hid there from us last June. We didn't find him for 4 1/2 hours.

Please don't be so judgemental over this man, you have more than likely never been in his position, and I pray that you never will.

This family will be emotionally tortured for the rest of their lives over this. Putting them through this additional process isn't giing to be worse than what they're already living through.

Please, folks, keep your vhicles scure when you're not using them...this includes camper trailers and other recreational vehicles.
melanieb.
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June 19, 2014
He dropped another child off @ day care.....why didn't he drop off this one too? Did the younger child go to another sitter? I cannot understand how people can do this? How do you forget you have another person in the car with you? The stuffed animal thing is a little dumb.
Jaysa
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June 22, 2014
I thought they had just one child.
WestCobbRes
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June 19, 2014
If you get to the point that you need to put a stuffed animal in your car in order to remind you that you have a living child in a car seat in the back seat - you should not even be allowed to drive... or be a parent. And I can promise you, if they don't even notice their child is in the back, having a teddy bear in the front isn't going to jog any brain cells either. I honestly do think we need to test people before they are allowed to reproduce. So sad.
William Lytle
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June 19, 2014
I fully agree with WestCobbRes. How in the world can anyone forget they have their child in the car with them. NOTHING is more important to me than my children. Even if it isn't part of your normal routine to transport your child, when you do something outside of your normal routine, it should be more predominate in your thoughts. This poor child had to sit there and slowly suffer suffocation and the father should be given the most severe punishment allowed by law. He should never be allowed out of prison.
Tess Harper
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June 19, 2014
Jennifer has it right. We are overworked, overtaxed, and being put into slavery by big corporations and their criminal partners in government.

This many has suffered immensely. While sometimes there are legitimate reasons to prosecute I feel that the loss is enough punishment.
anonymous
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June 19, 2014
Hey, prosecuting grieving parents is a lot safer and easier for law enforcement/prosecutors than confronting bad folks with guns and the will to use them against law enforcement/prosecutors.

I wish I had more trust in/respect for the LE/prosecution community these days.

MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
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June 19, 2014
@Tess Harper: Your Baby On Board (everyone watch out for me!) "overworked,overtaxed" and "...put into slavery by big corporations..." wimpy and whiney always-an-excuse mentality is sickening

I suggest that you learn the meaning of just TWO words: Personal Responsibility.

greg j
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June 19, 2014
so he pulls in to a parking lot goes in and asks for someone to call 911 but a bit later he is calling on his cell phone? Something smells here. Is this 'I left my kid in the car' just a new ploy to get rid of some kid you don't need anymore? Seems to happen quite a lot, maybe it isn't always an accident.
D Rosser
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June 19, 2014
According to the Cobb County Sheriff's Department website, the father has been charged with felony murder and cruelty to children. Not an accident!!!
David B
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June 19, 2014
Maybe he wanted to continue resuscitation on his child while someone else was on the phone with 911.
Jonah F
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June 20, 2014
Nothing suspicious about that. I've been trained in first aid for almost a decade and the protocol is to enlist someone else to call 911 while you attempt to help the victim.

Jaysa
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June 22, 2014
Call 911. They can give you info on how to best help the injured person. Don't leave the victim!
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