SPD: Parents charged in death of infant left in hot car

Posted: Monday, August 4, 2014 10:25 pm

By Jim McNally

The death of a 4-week-old on July 27 was caused by hypothermia after being left in the car for two hours, authorities said Monday, and the infant's parents have been arrested.

Sherrie Tiesha Clay and Shakee Duquan Robinson, the mother and father of the baby boy, were arrested and charged with one count each of involuntary manslaughter and felony child abuse.

Both are being held in Iredell County Jail on $200,000 secured bonds.

Police were alerted after Clay brought the child to Iredell Memorial Hospital, where it was determined the baby – whose name was withheld by police – was suffering from excessive heat exposure.

The child was transported to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where he died.

The Statesville Police Department immediately contacted the Iredell County Department of Social Services, which opened an investigation that authorities said resulted in Clay and Robinson’s two other children being removed from the home and placed in temporary custody.

According to a report by the University of San Francisco, an average of 38 children per year have died of heat-related complications from being left in the car of a caretaker over the past 15 years.

So far this year, 20 deaths were confirmed as being linked to such a cause, a figure that does not include the Statesville case.

Of the 639 deaths that have occurred from a child being left in a heated car since 1998 – including this year through June – 22 have happened in North Carolina.

Not surprisingly, nearly half of all heat-related car deaths in the United States occur in July and August. On average, nine deaths per year occur in each of these mid-summer months.

In more than half the cases – 51 percent – it was determined that the caretaker simply forgot they had left the child in the car. In another 18 percent, the children were believed to have intentionally been left in the car and in 29 percent, the children got into the cars on their own and could not extricated themselves.

As is the Statesville case, a plurality of the children who’ve died in heated cars – 31 percent – were less than one year old.

Statesville Police Chief Tom Anderson makes no allowance for parents whose children to die under such circumstances.

“It’s inexcusable,” he said. “And we have a zero-tolerance policy for these kinds of issues.”

Anderson said that while he realizes that some people leave their children in their cars and unattended for convenience, it doesn’t take much time to be left with a horrible event.

“People have to realize how quickly things can go wrong,” he said. “It can be a matter of minutes or even seconds if it’s hot enough.”