MASON, Ohio -- The woman who left her baby in her car will only face charges if investigators can prove the child’s death was a result of a conscious decision, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said.
Warren County Coroner's Office investigator Doyle Burke said the toddler's mother, a P&G employee, left her child unattended in the car all day Wednesday. She called fire crews at about 5 p.m. to report the toddler was no longer breathing. By the time crews arrived, the 15-month-old girl was dead in the back seat.
In an interview with 700 WLW Thursday, Deters said he didn't "know all the facts" of the case. He said investigators must determine whether the mother intentionally left her child in the car before any charges can be filed.
“The critical issue here is it requires some form of a culpable action by a parent. That’s the bottom line,” Deters said.
Deters will not have to make this determination. That decision belongs to Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell.
Deter said making a call on a case like this can be a “very subjective thing.”
It’s difficult for people to set aside how a parent could forget their child in the backseat, he said.
"People will say, ‘How can you forget your kid?’ Well that’s not the issue, it’s, ‘Did they truly forget the kid was there,’” Deters said.
If investigators determine the woman truly forgot her child, she will not face charges.
Deters said he knows from similar cases that some people will be angry if Fornshell decides not to press charges on the woman.
But Deters said Fornshell's only job is to uphold the law.
“If you’re a good prosecutor, you’re not there to send messages, you’re there to enforce the law, that’s it,” Deters said.
Attorney Marty Pinales is not involved in the case, but he said if the child’s death was an accident, that would be an adequate defense.
"Obviously this was a tragedy, and the prosecutor is going to make a determination whether any serious public good would come out of these charges and there is some case law that says that if it is an accident it's a complete defense to the charges,” Pinales said.
Dawn Gardner, an injury prevention specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said in the U.S., a child dies from being left in a car every 10 days.
“Over half of the time, when a child dies from a heat stroke, it’s because the parents are thrown off their routine,” Gardner said.
Gardner said parents should put a reminder in their cell phone to make sure they’re not in the backseat.
She also suggested parents put an item, like a purse or a briefcase, in the backseat so they have to turn around to grab it.
Daycares can also be advised to call parents if the child is not in at their scheduled time, Gardner said.
The child's family released the following statement Thursday:
"Words cannot express the depth of despair we feel at the loss of our baby girl ... everyone who had the privilege of knowing (her) would say that she was truly a blessed child who brought smiles, joy and happiness to everyone. We are grateful for the support of family and friends. We ask for prayers, patience and privacy during this unimaginably difficult time."
WCPO removed the name of the child from the family's statement.