Child in hot car dies, woman charged

A Navarre woman is facing criminal charges after a child in her care spent several hours in a hot car and died, according to a Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office news release.

Montana Rain Jackson, 19, of the 8200 block of Mercado Street, has been charged with one count of child neglect with great bodily harm. Surveillance video captured a 3-year-old boy wandering into the home's driveway Friday morning and getting into a parked vehicle.

According to Montana's arrest report, the child was located by a resident of the home about three hours later. Officials estimate the outside temperature was about 94 degrees, meaning the temperature inside the vehicle could have been about 140 degrees, according to research from San Jose State University.

The boy, who has not been identified, was transported to a local hospital and placed on a ventilator, but he did not survive.

In an interview with Sheriff's Office investigators, a resident of the home said Jackson was caring for the child while he slept, the report said. The individual reportedly said Jackson "does not care for (the victim) the same way she does her own children," and that the child was "always put second."

State Attorney Bill Eddins said that with the child's passing, his office is working with the Sheriff's Office to have the charges against Jackson upgraded to aggravated manslaughter. Eddins said that he could not speak about the specifics of Jackson's case, but he noted there is a general framework for determining if a child's death is accidental or criminal.

"We have to establish there was gross negligence," Eddins said. "That is worse than carelessness, and worse than simple negligence."

He said examples of the factors that typically come under review in negligence cases include how long the child was left unattended, whether drugs or alcohol contributed to the child's lack of supervision and whether there were any dangerous items or areas -- such as an unsecured weapon or swimming pool -- accessible to the child.

Between 1998 and 2015, there have been approximately 661 child vehicular heatstroke deaths in the U.S., according to data from the San Jose State University Department of Meteorology and Climate Science. About 54 percent of those children were "forgotten" by a caregiver; 29 percent of the children were playing in an unattended vehicle; 17 percent were intentionally left in a vehicle by an adult; and 1 percent died under unknown circumstances.

Only about half of those cases resulted in criminal charges, according to the university.

Jackson is being held in Santa Rosa County Jail on $100,000 bond. No one else has been charged in the incident.