The father charged with manslaughter after leaving his baby daughter in a hot car and then putting her in a refrigerator instead of calling the cops has defended himself, saying that he and his wife are "heartbroken".
Michael Thedford, 33, an unemployed high school teacher, was arrested in Collin County, outside of Dallas, Texas, on Wednesday. He was charged with manslaughter after the death of six-month-old Fern and released on a $20,000 bond.
Thedford had dropped his other children, aged three and five, at daycare - but forgot about Fern, who remained strapped into her car safety seat while the temperature outside was about 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32°C). In a statement released through their attorney, Thedford and his wife Jennifer said they love their children, WFAA reports.
"We are heartbroken over the loss of our beautiful baby girl," they said. "We love our children. We love Fern, and our hearts will never heal."
Thedford says it was a change in routine that made him forget about the baby after dropping his two other kids at daycare in the morning. They were dropped off at 9am. Around 1.30pm, deputies were called to the family home in Melissa, around 40 miles north of Dallas.
After returning home from dropping his kids off, Thedford went inside the family's home and fell asleep. Some four hours later, he found his baby daughter in a desperate condition in the back of his vehicle. He took her out, placed her in a refrigerator 'for an undetermined amount of time,' and called 911, the affidavit said.
He later placed the infant on the kitchen floor and attempted CPR on the baby before emergency responders arrived, it said. Thedford said his daughter was stiff and "hot as a brick" when he found her in the vehicle, the affidavit said. Deputies found the child outside the vehicle but unresponsive, Capt. Jim Moody of the Collin County Sheriff's Department said.
Thedford's wife was at work at the time of the incident, according to police. Neighbours said they witnessed Thedford re-enacting what had happened to the officers using a Mickey Mouse doll, CBS DFW reported.
Fabiola Contreras, who lives across the street, told the station: "They used a Mickey Mouse type of doll for him to show what happened and now that I think about it, they also were measuring from the van to the door now that I remember."
"They were asking the mother a few questions and she looked like she was crying," he added. "She was devastated. So was he, he would hug her and cry as well.'