Dad charged with murder after leaving child in hot car

By Peter Holley

A child's body temperature can raise as much as five times faster than an adults in hot weather. Photo / AP
A child's body temperature can raise as much as five times faster than an adults in hot weather. Photo / AP

A Mississippi man has been charged with second-degree murder after he left his 8-month-old daughter in an overheated car while we went to work.

Joshua Lewis Blunt left the child in the vehicle outside the restaurant where he works for "some period of time," Grenada Deputy Police Chief George Douglas told the Clarion-Ledger.

The child - identified by the paper as Shania Rihanna Caradine - was noticed by someone who was walking past the vehicle and who called police, the paper reported.

Grenada County Deputy Coroner Jo Morman told the Clarion-Ledger that the child was "hyperthermic" when she was found. The baby was taken inside the restaurant before paramedics arrived and she was rushed to University of Mississippi Medical Centre, in Jackson, where she was declared dead, the paper reported.

The baby's body has been sent to the state crime lab for an autopsy, the Clarion-Ledger reported.

Rhonda Hubbard, a friend of the family, told NBC affiliate WLBT that she never expected Blunt to leave his child in a car.

"My initial reaction is very shocked, very devastating, but it can happen," she said.

Blunt remains in the Grenada County Jail.

On average, 38 children die each year from heat-related deaths in vehicles, according to KidsAndCars.org, an organisation that tracks heatstroke deaths in vehicles among children.

In 2015, the organisation counted 25 such deaths, down from 32 the year before. More than half of those deaths occurred after a parent forgot a child in the backseat of the vehicle, according to USA Today.

"A child's body temperature can raise as much as five times faster than an adults," Cars.com editor Joe Wiesenfelder told the paper last year. "It's really best never to leave your kid in the car."

Hoping to avoid rising temperatures, he told the paper that parents might be tempted to leave children inside a car with the air conditioning running, but this scenario presents problems as well.

"Children become entangled in seat belts," Wiesenfelder said. "They can be injured by power windows, they can even set the car in motion, which unfortunately happens more than you might think."

Shania's death comes on the heels of another hot-car disaster. The station noted that a 2-year-old in nearby Madison County died last week after his mother left her in an overheated car.

Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker told the Clarion-Ledger that the child's mother went to work and left the toddler in the back of her vehicle. When she went to pick the child up from day care, the paper reported, staffers informed her that she hadn't dropped the child off earlier that day.

That parent was not charged in her child's death, leading some locals to question whether the latest charges against Blunt are racially motivated, according to WLBT. The TV station's report doesn't identify the mother's race, though.

"Most certainly not," Douglas told the station, noting that each investigation is unique. "This police department doesn't investigate cases based on race or gender or religion. We just investigate the facts, that I am not at liberty to discuss at the moment, that lead us to this point."

"It's never good to leave a child unattended in a car. Children don't need to be left unattended anytime," he said.

The Grenada Police Department released a statement about the incident that says a victim's advocate from the department is assisting Shania's mother.

"The Grenada Police Department is saddened because of this death," the statement said. "The Grenada Police would like to caution parents to check their vehicles to insure that children are not left inside unattended during the hot summer months."

- Washington Post

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