Baby left in SUV dies; dad is charged


By Megan Krug

A 9-month-old Lexington baby died yesterday, about an hour after he was found in a sport-utility vehicle on a 94-degree afternoon. Police charged his father with murder.

Daniel P. Jewell was pronounced dead at St. Joseph Hospital. About an hour later, Leon T. Jewell, 36, was taken from the family's home at 3820 Plantation Drive in handcuffs.

An autopsy was to be performed this morning in Frankfort. The Fayette coroner's office said the cause appeared to be hyperthermia.

Police declined to discuss the case. Neighbors, who held a candlelight vigil last night, said Daniel was the family's only child, and had just recently taken his first steps.

It was not known how long the baby was in the car. Police said he was unresponsive when they found him, and they were unable to revive him. He was pronounced dead at 6:04 p.m.

Daniel was born Oct. 13 at Central Baptist Hospital to Leon and Brandon Jewell. His mother accompanied the baby to the hospital.

Last night, police spent hours taking photographs in the house. They spent relatively little time at the SUV, which was parked behind the home in the tree-lined middle-class neighborhood near Harrodsburg Road.

Hours after the ambulance had taken the baby away, a sport-utility vehicle with Ohio license plates pulled up to the house. Neighbors said the passengers were the child's grandparents.

"I didn't know them very well," said Clarissa Carpenter, a neighbor, "but this is tragic." Another said an account would be set up at a Lexington bank to help the family.

Leon Jewell was being held at the Fayette County jail. He was scheduled to be arraigned at 1 p.m. today.

Hyperthermia is an acute condition resulting from excessive exposure to heat.

According to a Harvard Medical School review, 35 children died after being left alone in a vehicle last year. Hundreds of others suffered heat-related illnesses, according to the July issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The study says that the temperature in a car can rise 19 degrees within 10 minutes. Children never should be left unattended in a car, the authors say.

On July 21, Sebastian McCown, 2, of Rockcastle County died after he sneaked into a car while his mother slept.

A 1999 case led the General Assembly to stiffen penalties for leaving children unattended in cars.

Bryan Puckett, the 11-month-old son of William and Michelle Puckett of Winchester, died after his baby sitter left him in a closed car on an 82-degree day in Lexington.

Karen Murphy, the baby sitter, was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Murphy has twice tried to appeal the verdict, but lost both times.