A 2-year-old girl died in Holmes County, Florida, on Tuesday after being left unattended in her mother's vehicle for 14 hours. This is the fourth time this year that a child has died after being left in a hot car in the United States.
The toddler's parents, 23-year-old Kathreen Adams and 32-year-old Christopher McLean, have been charged with child neglect, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of methamphetamine, authorities said. However, according to law enforcement officials, more charges are forthcoming, pending the results of an autopsy that was performed Wednesday.
Holmes County sheriff's deputies responded to a 911 welfare check for a home in the county, which is on the Florida-Alabama state line, just before 4 p.m. EDT on Tuesday. Upon arriving, officers found Adams holding her child in her arms, authorities said. Adams reportedly told the officers she found the child unresponsive inside her house and didn't know what happened.
Child hot car deaths in the United States in 2023. (Kids and Car Safety)
According to the Holmes County Sheriff's Office, emergency medical services started conducting life-saving measures but ultimately pronounced the child dead at 3:59 p.m.
Once investigators started questioning the mother, they quickly found inconsistencies in her story, according to authorities. During a press conference on Tuesday, Holmes County Sheriff John Tate said the father was not cooperating with deputies during questioning.
"Investigators on the scene had EMS take a body temperature of the baby, which the body temperature of the child was 107 degrees, so we knew something was not adding up," said Tate.
Adams eventually admitted she picked up her children from a babysitter around midnight and decided to leave them both in the vehicle, authorities said. Officials said the 4-year-old child was able to get out of the car, and the Department of Children and Families currently has that child under custody.
Temperatures rise on a hot day. (Getty Images)
"So they decided to leave the child in the car and went inside and ultimately fell asleep and did not wake up or did not realize the child was in the car until around 3:41 that afternoon, and once they realized that the child was still in the car, they went out and found [her] unresponsive," said Tate.
When investigators searched the home, they found marijuana, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
"I honestly believe methamphetamine drugs is the culprit behind this death; that's what happens when you use drugs, you lose [a] sense of what's going on in reality," Tate said.
On Tuesday, temperatures in Holmes County reached the upper 80s. Although overnight temperatures were much lower, during the daytime hours on Tuesday, temperatures within the vehicle likely reached the triple digits within minutes of the sun rising.
According to Tate, investigators are waiting on the results from the autopsy to decide what homicide charges the couple will face, if any.
Child hot car deaths from 1990-2022. Numbers include U.S. children aged 14 and under. (Kids and Car Safety)
This is the fourth hot car death nationwide this year and the second death in the state of Florida during 2023, according to Kids and Car Safety, a national nonprofit child safety organization. Florida ranks second in the nation for child hot car deaths, with 111 reported fatalities between 1990 and 2022.
The first hot car death occurred in Alabama in late February when a father left his 2-year-old son unattended in his vehicle for eight hours. When the father went to pick up the child from daycare after work on Feb. 27, daycare workers informed him that the child was never dropped off that morning. That is when the father found the child unresponsive in the backseat of his car.
Nearly a week later, a 2-year-old died in Port St. Lucie, Florida, after his father left the child in his vehicle for more than five hours. The father dropped four of his children off at school and returned home. He forgot to take his youngest son out of the car when he arrived home and didn't realize until he went to pick up the other children later that afternoon, FOX13 reported.
On May 9, a 1-year-old girl died in Spring Valley, New York, which is just north of the New York-New Jersey border. According to Patch, the child was left in the family vehicle unattended for several hours.
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