Parents charged in toddler’s suspected hot car death in north Alabama

A 3-year-old boy was found dead in a hot car in Franklin County on Sunday, and his parents could now face up to 20 years in prison.

Dakota Heath Fowler, 20, and Brandi Michelle Burks, 22, were arrested on manslaughter charges, according to the Franklin County sheriff’s office. The parents are held in the Franklin County jail without bail set, records show.

Their 3-year-old son was found unresponsive in a car on Church Street in the tiny northwest Alabama town of Hodges on Sunday around 4 p.m. Resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful, and the boy was declared dead, Sheriff Shannon Oliver’s office announced in a press release.

"According to the parents, the child was last seen around midnight when they put him to bed,” the sheriff said in the press release. The parents woke up around 3 p.m. and found the child in a car, according to the sheriff.

In a phone interview with, Oliver said he believes the boy’s death was a tragic accident.

“I don’t feel there was any intent there,” he said. “I think it was neglect, which sadly cost the little guy’s life.

“It’s just a sad situation all around,” the sheriff added. “These types of cases are really hard for everybody.”

The child’s body has been sent for autopsy at the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences for autopsy.

The investigation is continuing, but the sheriff said he believes the boy died as a result of being left in a hot car.

It’s unclear whether the parents have attorneys to speak on their behalf. If convicted of manslaughter, they could face up to 20 years in prison.

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“Any time there’s a loss of a child, it’s just a very tragic event no matter if it’s by natural means or by accident or by some other means,” he said.