Florida infant dies after being left in hot car; babysitter charged

Author: Kerry Breen / CBS
Published: Updated:
Rhonda Jewell. Credit: Baker County Sheriff’s Office

A 10-month-old child in Florida has died after her babysitter left her in a hot car while babysitting other children, authorities said Thursday.

Rhonda Jewell, 46, was charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child, according to a report from the Baker County Sheriff’s Office, after being accused of leaving the infant child unattended in a vehicle that was not running “while outside temperatures were 98 degrees Fahrenheit with temperatures inside the vehicle reaching over 133 degrees for a period of at least 5 hours.”

The incident unfolded around 8 a.m. local time on Wednesday when Jewell picked up the infant from the child’s mother’s home in north Macclenny, a city about 30 miles west of Jacksonville. She then drove to another home in the city where she was babysitting other children.

Upon arriving at the second home, Jewell left the infant in the vehicle. According to the report from the sheriff’s office, Jewell told investigators that she assumed the baby was asleep, so she went inside the home and started interacting with the three other children she was babysitting, planning to get the infant later but “completely” forgetting to do so.

It wasn’t until the child’s mother arrived to pick up her daughter at around 1 p.m. that Jewell realized the child had been forgotten. Deputies found the infant inside the garage lying on the seat of a golf cart and began life-saving measures, the report said.

Responding deputies and rescue personnel said the infant’s skin was “very hot to the touch.”

The infant was transported to Fraser Memorial Hospital and pronounced deceased.

Jewell was arrested and held at the Baker County Detention Center. She made her first court appearance on Thursday morning, where her bond was set at $25,000. Jewell had been babysitting the child off and on since June of this year, the report said.

Police asked that people respect the privacy of the child’s family.

“Each of us are given the gift of life every morning we wake up, and every evening when we finish our day, we are blessed if our family is safe and healthy,” the Baker County Sheriff’s Office wrote on Facebook. “In the blink of an eye, our world can be turned upside down. Please be mindful of this when trying to understand the tragedy that took place in our small town yesterday.”

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