Child dies after Lakeland couple left her in car overnight, deputies said

Writer: Rachel Murphy
Published: Updated:
lakeland couple
Rondons taken into custody CREDIT Polk County Sheriff’s Office

A Lakeland couple has been charged with aggravated manslaughter after leaving an 18-month-old toddler in a car overnight, according to deputies.

Jazmine and Joel Rondon CREDIT Polk County Sheriff’s Office

On Tuesday, July 4, Joel and Jazmine Rondon went to a Fourth of July celebration in Lakeland, said Polk County deputies. The pair allegedly consumed alcohol and smoked marijuana while at the party.

When they returned home at 3 a.m., they began unloading food and items from the car, said investigators. Jasmine told Joel to bring the female toddler inside. Joel observed that one of the car doors was open at the time. He brought stuff inside their home, and when he went back outside, he saw all four doors to the car closed and assumed Jazmine had gotten the toddler out.

Joel went inside and both retired for the night. Neither husband nor wife asked each other if they had brought the victim inside, said deputies.

The next morning, Joel realized the baby was not in the bedroom and checked the house.

Joel then went outside and looked in the car, which was parked in the driveway in the full sun. He saw the victim inside, still strapped in her car seat and unresponsive.

He brought the toddler still strapped in her car seat into the house in a panic, and then he and Jazmine drove the child to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center. Despite all efforts and cooling her body down, she could not be revived and was declared deceased.

The child’s internal body temperature was 104.4. LRH staff notified law enforcement and they assumed the investigation.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd described the case as, “one of the most horrible, tragic deaths that we’ve seen in a very long time.”

Joel and Jazmine both submitted to drug screens by the Department of Children and Families. Joel tested positive for meth, marijuana and alcohol. Jazmine tested positive for marijuana and alcohol.

Joel and Jazmine were taken into custody on Thursday.

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