News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 7, 2013

No charges to be filed in toddler’s death

Investigation concludes incident caused by ‘change in the family routine’

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — No charges will be filed related to the case of a Clay County toddler who died last week of hyperthermia after he was accidentally left in the back of a pickup truck, officials said Friday.

“After concluding our investigation, a decision has been made to not file any charges. Do not feel that there has been a criminal act committed in this case. It was a terrible accident, an unfortunate accident...,” said Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt during a press conference at his office Friday afternoon.

“Our determination in this case should not be viewed as a determination that in another case of a child being left in a vehicle, we would not file charges. Allow me to stress, it is never appropriate to leave your child alone in a vehicle. The risks are great, and depending on the circumstances, doing so may very well be a criminal act, whether the child is harmed or not,” Modesitt stated in a release.

On Aug. 30, around 2:30 p.m., a 21⁄2-year-old boy was found unresponsive inside a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck parked in the west parking lot of Vectren in downtown Terre Haute, police said.

The boy was taken to Union Hospital by a Terre Haute Fire Department ambulance, but attempts to revive the child were unsuccessful. The boy died at 3:14 p.m., according to the Terre Haute Police Department.

Autopsy results on Monday showed that the boy died of hyperthermia, “which is getting too hot,” Vigo County Coroner Dr. Susan Amos told the Tribune-Star earlier this week.

A police investigation found that the pickup truck belonged to the child’s father.

Modesitt said his office, in collaboration with other agencies, investigated the case this week.

“It was a very extensive investigation,” which included police reports, witness statements, the preliminary autopsy report and other evidence, he said.

Modesitt also said that all angles of the case were considered and all types of possible charges were reviewed.

“After reviewing all those, we just do not feel that any of those apply,” he said.

Because of lack of evidence to show that the father had intent to commit a crime or mens rea, criminal charges will not be filed, officials said.

“Each and every case must be reviewed based on the individual facts of the incident,” Modesitt said in a release given to reporters.

According to the release, the facts involved a change in the normal family routine.

The father started his day working at home, and another child in the family was supposed to be at school. Flooding at the school cancelled classes, so the mother and child had to stay home that day.

It was then decided that the father would take the toddler to the daycare center on his way to work, which was on the same route.

En route, the child fell asleep in his car seat.

At around 10:45 a.m., the father received a call from work that he did not take the boy to the daycare, officials stated in the release. Upon arrival, the father began his work day and forgot that his son was asleep in the car seat, which was “behind his driver’s seat and concealed by the height of the truck and the tinted windows,” according to the release.

In the early afternoon, the father and a co-worker discovered the child when they went to his truck to load some items. The co-worker immediately called 911, according to the release.

Raeanna Moore, child victim and sex crimes prosecutor at the Vigo County Prosecutor’s Office said that based on research, there are about 38 of these types of death nationally each year.

“Our hearts really go out to the family,” Modesitt said.