Tot left in hot car for eight hours dies; Arlington mother charged

10:28 PM CDT on Wednesday, September 30, 2009
By SCOTT GOLDSTEIN / The Dallas Morning News

An Arlington woman with a history of child neglect knowingly left her 1-year-old son in a hot car for eight hours while she worked before taking him to a hospital, police say.

It was too late for Darrell "Tre" Singleton III, whose body temperature was 107 degrees when he was pronounced dead Sept. 3 at Arlington Memorial Hospital, according to police documents.

Keashia Dyon Matthews, 37, turned herself in to authorities Friday on a felony charge of injury to a child, police said. She posted $13,000 bond and was released the next day, police said.

To Matthews' family, the death is a tragic blow in a long line of troubling incidents involving her five children. Her oldest two daughters, ages 14 and 12, have lived with Matthews' mother, Suzette Edwards, in Detroit since they were babies.

Edwards said she took custody of the oldest daughter after she was found alone in a rancid apartment as a baby. She said she has cared for the 12-year-old girl since she was born.

"She has aggression issues, and she is not fit to be a mother," Edwards said. "She never has been. She has never liked children."

Two other daughters, ages 5 and 6, who lived with Matthews in Arlington, were placed in foster care the day Darrell died, officials said.

Matthews could not be reached for comment. Her family said she recently changed her telephone number without telling them. It was unknown late Wednesday whether she had retained an attorney.

Police say her account of what happened that day changed several times.

She initially told officers she had stayed at her apartment with Darrell all day. She later admitted she had left him strapped in her sport utility vehicle in the parking lot of her Bedford workplace, police said.

She arrived at 7 a.m. and went outside to check on her son periodically throughout the day, she told investigators. She would turn the air conditioning on when she checked on him, she said.

Matthews said her son appeared red when she left work at 3 p.m., but she did not go straight to the hospital. Instead, she drove to an Arlington elementary school to pick up her other daughters.

She then drove to the hospital, where doctors tried unsuccessfully to revive the boy.

The Tarrant County medical examiner is awaiting test results to make a final ruling on the cause and manner of Darrell's death.

In the meantime, Matthews' relatives say they don't think she is telling the full truth.

"I don't believe the child died in the car," sister Nichole Miller said. "I believe something else happened and that is the coverup."

Officials with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services have also had previous contact with Matthews regarding Darrell and two other daughters in recent years, agency spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said.

In March 2003, when her third daughter was born, the agency was notified about the circumstances of the two older children in Detroit, Gonzales said. The third daughter was placed in foster care, but a court ordered her returned to her mother in October of that year, she said.

In May, the agency was notified that Matthews was leaving the children home alone while she went to work.

"That was checked out and that was substantiated," Gonzales said. "She ended up securing daycare for the children so they wouldn't have to stay home alone, and that case was closed in June."

Gonzales said there is no record of allegations of physical abuse of the children.

"Our biggest priority right now is making sure the two siblings are safe, and we feel that they are," Gonzales said. "We're also working with law enforcement to find out exactly what happened to this baby."

For Miller, who lives in Atlanta, it should not have come to this.

"It definitely could have been prevented," Miller said. "We did what we could. We knew that she wasn't suitable to be a parent."