3 children die in hot cars in 1 day in the U.S.; forgetful grandfather faces charges

·17 min read

Three children died in hot cars on one single day this week and an Alabama grandfather is facing charges in one of the tragedies.

The three separate deaths all happened Tuesday in different states:

  • A father in Jacksonville, Florida accidentally left his 8-month-old daughter in the car for about an hour while he was doing some work.

  • A grandfather in Oneonta, Alabama accidentally left his 2-year-old grandson in the car after he mistakenly thought he had dropped him off at daycare.

  • The third death happened in Houston when a 38-year-old father was fatally shot by another man following an argument outside a supermarket. The shooter took the father's SUV, which had his 2-year-old son in the backseat, before later ditching the vehicle with the toddler still inside. The boy was found dead more than five hours later, and the suspect is facing murder charges.

In the Alabama case, 56-year-old Bill Wiesman was arrested on charges of reckless manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the death of his 2-year-old grandson Ian. It's unclear whether Wiesman has an attorney.

Wiesman left Ian in his truck after he was supposed to drop him off at daycare. He continued to use the truck several times throughout the day but didn't notice the boy was still in the back despite a forward-facing car seat, said Blount County District Attorney Pamela Casey, who became emotional during a news conference about the tragedy.

"I have a 3-year-old and a 2-month-old," Casey said. "It's awful when you have to witness these cases and you go home to your babies and you see what you see. My heart breaks for this family."

Although Wiesman did not intentionally leave his grandson in the car, investigators decided his actions were criminally negligent because he returned to his car several times during the day before he went to pick the boy up at daycare and only then realized his mistake.

"I don't understand it," Casey said. "I didn't sleep last night."

The 23 hot car deaths so far this year are on pace with such tragedies in 2020 and 2021 but are still far below the record years of 2018 and 2019, when 51 and 44 children died in hot cars through mid-September, respectively, according to data kept by NoHeatStroke.org, which is maintained by the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose State University.

One of the biggest problems contributing to hot car deaths is that many parents don't think it could happen to them, said Amber Rollins, director of Kids and Car Safety, a group trying to educate the public about the problem.

"People think that there's just absolutely no way under any condition that this could happen, that someone could actually unknowingly leave their child in their car," she said. "They think, 'This must be a monster.'"

Charging parents in hot-car deaths: Dozens of kids die in hot cars each year and their parents are rarely charged. This is why.

In hopes of spreading awareness about the problem and how people are still leaving children in hot cars, USA TODAY has compiled details of the 23 hot car deaths we've confirmed this year.

While activists and lawmakers are working on requiring car companies to integrate technology to prevent hot car deaths, a permanent solution could still take years. In the meantime, Rollins said it's up to parents and caregivers to make sure they never make the worst mistake of their lives.

SEPTEMBER 20

What happened: Police say a father accidentally left his 8-month-old daughter in his car while he was working in a neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida.

How it happened: Police believe the father forgot his daughter was in the car with him. Police say the baby was in the hot car for roughly an hour before her dad realized his mistaken but it was too late.

The result: No charges have been announced.

SEPTEMBER 20

What happened: Police say 56-year-old Bill Wiesman left his 2-year-old grandson Ian in his truck after he was supposed to drop him off at daycare in Oneonta, Alabama. He continued to use the truck several times but didn't notice the boy was still in the back despite a forward-facing car seat, said Blount County District Attorney Pamela Casey.

How it happened: Police do not believe Wiesman intentionally left his grandson in the car.

The result: Wiesman has been arrested on charges of reckless manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. It's unclear whether he has an attorney.

SEPTEMBER 6

What happened: A 1 1/2-year-old boy was left in a hot car in Clark, South Dakota.

How it happened: Police have declined to say who left the baby in the car or how it happened. They say they will release more details after their investigation.

SEPTEMBER 1

What happened: Landon Parrott, 19, said he left his 14-month-old son inside his car in New Philadelphia, Ohio so he wouldn't be a disturbance in his apartment while his wife was at work, according to police.

How it happened: Police say Parrott initially lied about the circumstances surrounding his son's death but later said he knowingly left him in the car for several hours.

The result: Parrott has been charged with murder. No attorney is listed for him in court records.

The takeaway: Experts say it is extremely rare for a parent to intentionally leave a child in a hot car and that the vast majority are tragic accidents.

AUGUST 30

What happened: Someone left a toddler in a hot car in Franklin Township, New Jersey.

How it happened: Police have said very little about the case.

AUGUST 25

What happened: A staff member at Dr. Americo Paredes Elementary School in south Texas left their 5-year-old son in the car.

How it happened: Officials said it was too early in their investigation to release further details. They haven't said whether the boy's mother or father worked at the school or how they came to leave him in the car on a 99-degree day.

My child died in a hot car. What his legacy has taught me about love and forgiveness.

AUGUST 16

What happened: Details are few but police say someone broke out a 3-year-old boy from a hot car in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

How it happened: USA TODAY will update this story as soon as more information is released.

AUGUST 14

What happened: Police say 22-year-old Ivy Lee left her 6-month-old baby girl in the car while she worked for five hours in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

How it happened: Police haven't said whether Lee forgot that her daughter was in the car while she worked. They said she told them she had left the car running but later turned it off.

The result: Lee was arrested on a charge of second-degree murder and is being held on a $1.2 million bond.

AUGUST 12

What happened: A 3-year-old girl died the day after being left in a hot car in Carthage, Missouri.

How it happened: Carthage police have not responded to a request for more information and have not said how it occurred.

The result: No charges have been filed in the case.

AUGUST 9

What happened: A 3-month-old baby boy died after being left in a hot car for at least an hour in Washington, D.C.

How it happened: The Metropolitan Police Department hasn't said how it happened and have ignored repeated requests to provide additional information. The Washington Post reported that that a misstep in dispatching paramedics delayed the arrival of a medical team to the scene by 13 minutes, though police arrived sooner.

JULY 31

What happened: A 2-year-old boy died after being found unresponsive inside a van in Scranton, Kansas. The parents of the child called 911 and the child was dead upon the officer's arrival, according to the Osage County Sheriff Chris Wells.

How it happened: The investigation is still ongoing, but the sheriff's department doesn't believe that the child was left in the vehicle, according to Wells, who indicated he may have gotten into the car on his own.

The result: The incident remains under investigation and the sheriff's department is awaiting autopsy results for the official cause of death. No charges have been filed.

The takeaway: Experts say to keep car doors locked and keys out of reach of children.

JULY 28

What happened: Sheriff's deputies were called to a home in Scotland County, North Carolina, after a 2-year-old boy was reported missing on July 21, the Associated Press reported. The child was found in a car on the front lawn of his family's property, Capt. Randy Dover said. The boy was breathing on his own when he was taken to the hospital, but he died a week later.

How it happened: Deputies aren’t sure how long the child was in the car. High temperatures that day reached 91 degrees.

The result: The incident remains under investigation and no charges have been filed.

The takeaway: A group that works to prevent hot car deaths said this looks like another case where technology might have been able to help. Some automakers are beginning to build "rear-seat reminder alerts" into their vehicles, Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids and Car Safety said in a release, but she also cited the need for occupant-detection technology.

JULY 19

What happened: Police say 28-year-old Tia Washington inadvertently left her 11-month-old baby in her car while she worked a shift at a hospice facility in Tallahassee, Florida.

How it happened: Washington apparently forgot her son, Karohn Idris Jean-Baptiste, was in the car when she arrived for work. During her shift, she researched how to create a photo collage of her son and texted her ex-husband if he remembered how much Karohn weighed at birth, according to a tragic timeline of that day.

The result: Washington was charged with aggravated manslaughter. She has pleaded not guilty. Her attorney, Adam Komisar, has declined to comment on the case.

The takeaway: One of Rollins' biggest tips is for parents to create a visual reminder in the front seat that a young child is in the back.

"Put the diaper bag in the front seat." Even better, parents can keep a stuffed animal in the back seat and every time they put their child in the back, they can bring the stuffed animal to the front. "Do it every time and there's much less chance that this could happen to you," Rollins said.

JULY 11

What happened: A father left his 3-year-old son, Shalom Tauber, in the car at Lubavitch Educational Center, a preschool in Miami Gardens, Florida, where both of the child's parents teach.

How it happened: It appears to have been an accident.

The result: Police will forward the case to prosecutors who will decide whether charges are appropriate.

The takeaway: A visual reminder in the front seat that the child was in the car could have helped.

The difference in temperatures is shown during an event put on by Kids and Car Safety in Kansas City in June.
The difference in temperatures is shown during an event put on by Kids and Car Safety in Kansas City in June.

JULY 1

What happened: A father left his 1-year-old in the car while he went to work at a manufacturing plant in Mebane, North Carolina. It's unclear how long the baby was in the car. Arriving officers performed CPR but it was too late.

How it happened: Police have not said.

The result: Too early to say.

The takeaway: A visual reminder in the front seat that the child was in the car could have helped.

JUNE 30

What happened: A 30-year-old woman in Danielsville in northeastern Georgia told authorities she accidentally left one of her children in the back of her car when she went to work at Walgreens. The 1-year-old was in the car for about four hours before his mother found him and called 911. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

How it happened: The mother told police she would typically drop off her two children at separate day care centers. She dropped one child off before work and didn't realize she didn't stop at the second day care before arriving to work.

The result: Police say evidence will be turned over to the Northern Circuit District Attorney's Office to determine if any charges are warranted.  

The takeaway: A visual reminder of the child also could have helped in this case.

JUNE 28

What happened: A 37-year-old Virginia father apparently forgot to take his 18-month-old son to day care and instead went to work in metropolitan Richmond. He found the boy after he had been left in the hot car for several hours, then drove home, brought the boy inside and walked into the woods behind his house and fatally shot himself, according to police.

When police arrived shortly after based on information they got from the man's family members, they found the toddler dead and then his father's body.

The takeaway: “This is a horrible tragedy on so many levels, and our hearts go out to the family and friends that are going to deal with this, but we would be remiss in not taking the opportunity for people to take this moment and realize how important it is to check your vehicles,” said Lt. Col. Chris Hensley of Chesterfield County Police.

Hot car death: Virginia toddler dies after being left inside hot car, father dies by suicide, police say

Renly Andreasen sits in his car seat while his mother drives.
Renly Andreasen sits in his car seat while his mother drives.

JUNE 26

What happened: A Georgia grandmother took her 3-year-old grandson and his three sisters to church and then to Wendy’s before returning home on Sunday. She realized the boy was missing nearly three hours later, and he was found soon after still strapped in his car seat, Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan told ABC News.

How it happened: The boy's grandmother didn't realize he was left in the car.

The result: It's unclear whether the case will be forwarded to prosecutors for consideration of charges.

The takeaway: "It sounds kind of silly but do a roll call," Rollins said. "Anytime you've got multiple children there's always chaos. Someone's throwing a fit, something is getting spilled, there's so much going on."

So often with multiple children where there are older siblings, an adult assumes they all piled out together. "By the time they realize the baby's not sleeping in the house it's too late. Look before you lock," Rollins adds.

JUNE 20

What happened: A 5-year-old boy died in the Houston area after being left in the car by his mother after she took him and his 8-year-old sister shopping before the girl's birthday party. Two to three hours after arriving home on the day that topped 100 degrees, the mother began looking for the boy, eventually finding him buckled inside the car and unresponsive. She called 911 and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

How it happened: The boy's mother said she thought both kids got out of the car on their own.

The result?: Investigators said they would meet with the district attorney's office to present their findings.

The takeaway: This case is a prime example of a parent not in a routine and distracted by the logistics and excitement of a birthday party. This is another case in which a roll call or a visual reminder of the child could have helped.

Amber Rollins demonstrates how to use a window breaker to help break out a child from a hot car in Kansas City in June.
Amber Rollins demonstrates how to use a window breaker to help break out a child from a hot car in Kansas City in June.

JUNE 16

What happened:  Thirty-three-year-old Khang Nguyen left his his 3-month-old son, Kayden, in the family minivan in suburban Pittsburgh for at least six hours while he was at work.

How it happened:  Nguyen told detectives that he left his baby boy in the van outside his family's nail salon business with the air conditioning on and that he knew it would shut off automatically after an hour. But he forgot about the baby until he went to pick up his other son from school.

The result: Nguyen has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment and reckless endangerment. He's being held in Allegheny County jail without bail.

The takeaway: Experts say there is never a good reason to leave a child alone in a car for any period of time.

MAY 20

What happened: A woman left her 10-month-old daughter in her car seat inside her car for several hours just outside of Houston in Pearland. When she remembered the girl was there, she returned to the car and found her unresponsive. The girl was pronounced dead at a hospital soon after the mother took her there.

How it happened: Police have not said how the woman came to leave her daughter in the car.

The result: Police said the case would be referred to a grand jury.

The takeaway: So far police haven't released enough details to identify tips to avoid what happened in this case.

Experts say parents can use visual reminders for when children are in their car to help prevent hot car deaths.
Experts say parents can use visual reminders for when children are in their car to help prevent hot car deaths.

MAY 19

What happened: A day care worker who picked up 1-year-old Carson Flowers in Memphis, Tennessee, and took him to the facility left him in the vehicle for more than six hours. He was rushed to a hospital in critical condition before dying.

How it happened: Police say the day care worker said she accidentally left the baby in the car. They briefly detained her and another daycare worker for questioning.

The result: The day care, Education is the Key Children’s Center, is now closed. Prosecutors are considering whether to file charges.

The takeaway: In a statement, Carson's family said that "things like this happen every summer, locally, nationally, and this year it hit close home. Moving forward, we ask all daycares , to please, please, please check your vehicles/backseats, to ensure that every child makes it back home to their loving families and are able to have a fair chance at life. We hope that Carson’s passing is a wake up call, for day cares to tighten up on their pickup and drop-offs system!"

MAY 3

What happened: Davied Whatley left his 8-month-old daughter, Nova Grace Whatley-Trejo, in his car as he went to the local police department in Snellville, Georgia, to retrieve some guns that officers had previously taken from him. Police ran a background check, found a warrant for a misdemeanor probation violation and arrested Whatley.

How it happened: Police say Whatley, 20, never mentioned leaving his daughter in the car while he was booked and processed in jail. The child's grandmother, Leticia Padilla, told WSB-TV that Whatley told police Nova was in the car but they didn't believe him. Snellville Detective Jeff Manley said at a news conference that he believes Whatley told the grandmother about the baby "sometime later" in the day and that she found Nova up to eight hours after she was left in the car.

The result: Whatley has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and has a bond hearing set for June 30. His defense attorney, Stacy Levy, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

What's the takeaway: "There's never a safe amount of time to leave a child in a hot car," Rollins said. Even five minutes is too long.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hot car deaths 2022: How many US kids have died in cars this summer?