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A mother and father in Florida have been arrested and charged with manslaughter after police say they left their 18-month-old child in a car overnight. An autopsy of the toddler found she died of hyperthermia, or overheating.
In a livestreamed press conference, the Polk Country Sheriff’s Office described the events that led up to the parents allegedly forgetting the 18-month-old in the car. (As of this writing, the parents have not made any public comment about the accusations.)
Joel and Jazmine Rondon, both 33, went to a Fourth of July party on Tuesday in Lakeland, Fla., with their three children, ages eight, six and 18 months. They didn’t arrive back at home until 3 a.m. on Wednesday.
Jazmine brought the two older children inside to give them something to eat before bringing them to bed, and she asked Joel to take the 18-month-old out of the car, Sheriff Grady Judd said.
Joel, meanwhile, was unpacking the car and bringing trays of food inside. As he started doing this, Joel noticed the right rear door of their car was open. When he went back out again to gather more things, “he saw all four doors to the Hyundai Elantra closed, and assumed Jazmine had gotten the toddler out,” the sheriff’s office said.
Joel went inside where Jazmine was already in bed and fell asleep. He woke up around 10 a.m. for work and noticed an hour later that the 18-month-old was gone. After searching through the house, he went out to the car and found the toddler still strapped to her car seat, unresponsive.
The couple rushed her to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, where attempts were made to cool her body down, but the 18-month-old was ultimately pronounced dead.
“When we started our investigation at like 2:30, 3 o’clock in the afternoon, after the life-saving measures, after the body being cooled down, the baby still had a core temperature of 104.4 degrees, and this was like three hours after the baby was taken out of the hot car,” Judd said.
The sheriff noted that the heat index was around 105 F that day and the car was parked outside, not in a garage, and not under any shade.
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“It is brutally hot for everyone under the best of circumstances and then this child is shut in the car, obviously with no movement of air, with it becoming hotter and hotter and hotter as the morning went on,” Judd said.
Police reported that the parents were remorseful and admitted to drinking and using marijuana at the party the night before. Drug tests for both came back positive for alcohol and marijuana, and Joel also tested positive for meth.
They were arrested and transported to Polk Country Jail on Thursday. The couple’s two older children are staying with relatives while the Department of Child and Family Services conducts its own investigation.
“This child should have grown and flourished and grown up into a productive teenager and adult and now she won’t have the chance to do that,” Judd said, calling the case an example of “pure negligence.”
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