Two Children Found Dead In Trunk

Last updated Monday, June 15, 2009 10:34 PM CDT in News


SPRINGDALE — Two children reported missing were declared dead Monday after being found unconscious in a car trunk, according to a news release from the Springdale Police Department.

Police were notified about 4:35 p.m. Monday that a 5-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl were missing from their home at 347-A Sage, according to the release. Their mother had last seen them about 3:50 p.m.

During a search of the area, officers found the children unconscious inside the closed trunk of the family car at the home.

Medical personnel arrived and declared the children dead.

An investigation is ongoing, according to the release.

SPRINGDALE : Siblings' deaths in trunk of car called accidental

Posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2009


SPRINGDALE - Two empty booster seats sit in the back of a brown Chevrolet Malibu parked in front of the eastside duplex where Curtis and Virginia Markley lived and where neighbors often saw them play.

The blond brother and sister were inseparable and always looked happy, flashing toothy grins at everyone they saw, their parents said Tuesday.

About 5 p.m. Monday, a half hour after police were contacted, the siblings were found in the trunk of the 2000 Malibu after being missing since 3:50 p.m. Paramedics later pronounced them dead.

Curtis, 5, and Virginia, 4, were holding each other's hands when their grandmother Debbie Stueart found them in the trunk.

Stueart was on her way inside the duplex Monday to check the closets when she asked if anyone had looked for her grandchildren in the trunk.

She pressed the trunk release button on the car's dashboard several times before it popped open.

"I thought I was seeing things," Stueart said. She knew they were dead when she touched them.

Their mother, Katrina Markley, 24, told her children goodbye about 3:50 p.m. when they went across the street to a neighbor's house where they were to play until a bus picked them and others up for Vacation Bible School at Sonora Baptist Church outside Springdale.

Later, one of the neighbors knocked on their door looking for them when the bus arrived.

Katrina Markley called police about 4:30 p.m., and neighbors searched for Curtis and Virginia.

Neighbor Jack Wilson heard Stueart scream after opening the trunk and ran to her side. The children were found shortly after 5 p.m.

"I wish I never walked over there," said Wilson, whose children often played with Curtis and Virginia.

Neither had seen their father, truck driver Christopher Markley, since about May 12 when he left for a multiweek haul. He was scheduled to be home this week and had planned to take his kids to ride go-carts.

"They were go-fast kids from the beginning," said Markley, 39, reminiscing Tuesday as he looked at family photos at the home of Stueart, his mother-inlaw.

Curtis was developing an interest in fishing, and Virginia was excited about a new Tinkerbell doll she had just received. The family planned to move soon to a home in Bella Vista where Curtis would have started kindergarten in the fall.

The Springdale Police Department is investigating the deaths and has sent the bodies to the state Crime Laboratory in Little Rock for autopsies, said police spokesman Sgt. Shane Pegram.

"It's a strong possibility that the kids were playing" when they were trapped inside the trunk, he said, adding that the department needed to check all possibilities before they could say for sure how the children died.

Roger Morris, the Washington County coroner, said he believed the deaths were accidental.

"This is a safety procedure," he said. "You want to send them to Little Rock; in case the families have some questions you can help them out."

Morris said he hopes to hear back from the medical examiner's office within two weeks.

"It's a tragedy," he said. "I feel sorry for all the parties involved, the families and everybody."

It's possible Curtis and Virginia died of hyperthermia, or high body temperature, said Jan Null, a certified consulting meteorologist from San Francisco who studies and tracks statistics on children who die inside hot vehicles.

A person can die in less than an hour inside the trunk of a car in 90-degree heat, he said.

Temperatures in Springdale on Monday were about 88 degrees when Curtis and Virginia disappeared, according to the National Weather Service in Tulsa.

"It's incredibly dangerous," Null said of being in a closed vehicle in high temperatures.

A person's temperature regulation system shuts down once body temperature reaches about 104 degrees, which is considered a clinical heat stroke, he said. Body temperature can spike after that, and cells inside organs begin dying once the fever reaches 107 degrees, he said.

So far this year, Null said he's tracked eight hyperthermia vehicle deaths nationwide, including four since June 7. He's awaiting cause-of-death reports from Curtis and Virginia's autopsies to see if they'd be added to the total.

On average, about 38 children nationally die each year after being left in cars.

Curtis and Virginia's family said they're not sure if they'll ever know what led the children to get into the trunk or how they shut the lid. There's no way to enter the trunk from the inside of the car, Christopher Markley said.

The federal government required auto manufacturers to equip all vehicle trunks with a release latch beginning Jan. 1, 2001.

Many older vehicles without those safety latches remain on the road. There's no requirement to put the releases on older vehicles. The Markley's car was a 2000 model and did not have the emergency latch.

Janette Fennell, founder and president of children's safety organization Kids and Cars of Leawood, Kan., testified before a U.S. House subcommittee last month, telling the congressmen that no child has died in a trunk entrapment incident in a vehicle with the escape mechanism.

"I can tell you this small change has saved countless lives," Fennell told the subcommittee.

The two-level duplex on Sage Street, where a bottle of purple bubble solution rested on its side near the family's front door, stood quiet on Tuesday, the day after the tragedy.

"I don't think it's really sunk in yet," Katrina Markley said.

A funeral likely will be scheduled next week, the family said. An account, under the name Curtis and Virginia Markley Memorial Fund, has been established at area Arvest Bank branches to help cover the costs of the service.

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