UPDATE: Distraught Father Charged with Murder of Child He Forgot in Car

Readers — A news story suggests that this case may possibly be something other than a father who tragically forgot his baby in the car when he went to work. If so and his actions were deliberate, then obviously, we are talking about murder. Murder darker than night.  

That does not change the reason for my earlier post with the facts as originally presented, which was to ask for legal leniency and human compassion when a parent makes a terrible mistake that he will regret forever, and punishing him will do no one any good. – L.

eaders — This letter has me heartbroken for absolutely everyone concerned. I signed the petition. Vengeance does not bring anyone back, nor does it prevent any more deaths, nor can it possibly teach this dad any lesson he has not already had seared on his soul. — Lenore 

Dear Free-Range Kids:

A man from my town has been arrested and charged with murder for forgetting his toddler was in the car and leaving him there while he was at work. Obviously in our miserable Atlanta heat, the child passed away. It is a tragic accident, but the father–Justin Ross Harris–is being held without bond and charged with murder and felony cruelty to children.

As a mother, I’m outraged and heartbroken, and as a resident of Cobb County I’m furious at this gross misuse of our justice system. Our jails and courtrooms should not be used to charge grieving fathers who have had terrible lapses of memory. According to the news reports, Harris was so distraught when he found what has happened that he had to be restrained. This is not a murder case.

I want to take whatever action I can to fight this. I intend to write our courts, our DA, and our governor. I have also created a petition to have the charges against him dropped: https://www.change.org/petitions/district-attorny-vic-reynolds-drop-charges-against-justin-ross-harris/

Can you help? You were the first person I thought of who might be willing to share this. The more signatures, the more letters, the more chance this grieving father can go home and mourn with his wife.

Thank you in advance,  Erin in Marietta, GA

Lenore here again: This was a tragic accident, a lapse I know that I could have made. (I once fell asleep when my kids were young and left the tea kettle on. I’m just lucky I did not burn down the house.) There is no law on earth that can make humans infallible, and no punishment against this father that makes sense. 

My heart goes out to this family.

My heart goes out to this family.


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178 Responses to UPDATE: Distraught Father Charged with Murder of Child He Forgot in Car

  1. maresi June 20, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

    This poor man began his life sentence the moment his child died. Show mercy, Cobb County.

  2. stacey June 20, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    More children have died because of being left in car seats, in the BACK seat, since the laws dictating such, than died because of air bags in the front, which can now be turned off. Time to reverse the law.

    Same situation in Alabama last year… http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2014/05/mother_of_baby_who_died_in_car.html

    No charges filed. Interestingly, in the comments section someone wonders if a man would have been treated the same… Now we know…

  3. Brooke June 20, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

    Holy hell, WITHOUT BOND?!?! That’s inhumane. The only way that makes sense is if he’s a suicide risk and even then, a hospital seems more suitable.

    I read the story and it is heartbreaking. This man lost a child and knowing the statistics coupled with the circumstances, his marriage may end as well (not speculating, just know the stress). If I live in Georgia, I would be furious that I was expected to pay taxes to imprison a grieving father who will live with regret for the rest of his life.

  4. Patti K. June 20, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

    When my daughter was very young, I was completely paranoid about forgetting her in the car. More than once I spaced out on the way to work and realized she was asleep in the back seat halfway between where I should have turned for daycare and the office.

    I feel so bad for the family. I hope he is released soon.

  5. Karen June 20, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    This is a natural consequence of the new advice to put kids in the back seat. If they were in the front seat as they used to be, nobody would forget them. But having them in the back seat saves more lives than it costs – we just have to accept that there will be accidents, just as when we had them in the front seat and they were killed in a crash, we called that an accident. Otherwise, it will start to make sense to put them in the front again – so if they die in a crash, at least I won’t go to jail for it because we’ll call that an accident – instead of in the back, where if I forget them I’ll go to jail.

  6. Karen June 20, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    okay, does anyone know whether the back seat actually saves more lives than it costs? (Personally, I put mine in the front so they can keep me company, and so they won’t choke to death while I’m driving.)

  7. E June 20, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    A local weatherman tweeted out this story (from 2009) that won a Pulitzer (I believe). His tweet was something along the lines of “what kind of parent would leave their kid in a hot car? all of them”


  8. savoir faire June 20, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    I share the sense of heartbreak for this dad. However, I struggle with where we draw the line. We prosecute people for negligent homicide or manslaughter in cases where the death was due to a person’s failure to take *reasonable* care for another person’s safety. If this man is innocent of any such crime, then what about the man who “accidentally” shoots his nephew with a gun that he didn’t know was loaded? Or the woman who accidentally backs over the neighbor’s kid who she didn’t see in the driveway? Where is the line?

  9. SOA June 20, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    I am not as easy to over look this. I have said on this site before there has been a billion PSAs about how not to forget your child in the car like putting your wallet or purse in the backseat near the child or moving a stuffed animal from the back seat to the front seat when you put the kid in the car and you cannot overlook a giant teddy bear sitting right next to you in the passenger seat. Or have the other parent always check in and make sure the other parent dropped the child off at daycare. Or have the daycare make sure to check in if the child does not show up. So I don’t have a lot of sympathy for these parents when they ignore the steps they could take to make sure this does not happen to them. Easy steps. But everyone thinks they are too awesome of a parent for this to happen to them and then it does.

    It also seems to happen more to working parents. If you are too overwhelmed with your job that you could be so bogged down that this could happen to you, maybe you should downsize your life and let one of the parents stay at home with the kids. Or find a less stressful job. I know that is not an option for everyone but sometimes if you would trade the giant house for a smaller house or the fancy brand new SUV for a used sedan, it could be possible. It is about priorities. We don’t have to have the biggest and best of everything. We do without a lot so I can stay at home with our kids and not have to be running around all the time.

    Finally, maybe if we start punishing these parents more for doing this, it will make parents wake up and start taking the easy steps to prevent this from happening ever again.

    It is not a free range issue to me. It is are you going to take a few simple steps to prevent this that hurt no one and hinders no one, or are you going to risk it.

  10. savoir faire June 20, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    I agree with SOA. This is *NOT* a Free Range issue!!! Free Range is about pushing back against paranoid fears about made-up or exaggerated risks that people use to limit kids’ freedom and growth.

    If Free Range means anything, it’s about being able to identify the real risks and not giving in to the paranoia about the exaggerated or made-up risks. In this case, the risk of leaving your kid locked in a hot car are REAL, they are not made-up.

  11. Stephanie June 20, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    I’m not sure where I land on this. It’s a tragic accident for sure, and I’m not sure prosecuting him will do any good. The Pulitzer-prize winning article linked below made me cry when I read it several years ago.

    However, I do believe adults should be prosecuted and held criminally responsible for other “accidents” like leaving a gun loaded and unlocked where children are. Each day, children are shot in this country, many times by other children or relatives who “thought” the gun was not loaded. Those are acts of pure negligence, and the frequent tome “we don’t need to charge him – he’s suffering enough” makes my blood boil.

  12. Tony June 20, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    My heart goes out to this father but I do think that the charge is appropriate. It is only a charge at this point. It will be up to a jury to determine guilt. If the story as reported here is accurate he should be found not guilty. I hope that he is not guilty but that is too important a matter to be decided by those of us on this blog.

  13. anonymous mom June 20, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    What a tragic story.

    I don’t think we need to punish people for genuine accidents. There is a difference to me between the person who picks up a loaded gun they think is unloaded, points it at somebody, and pulls the trigger, and a person who has a gun properly and safely stored that a child in the home manages to find and get at and accidentally shot themselves with. I’d say the first was an example of a truly negligent act, the second is an accident. (And I say this as somebody who is pretty vehemently anti-gun.)

    I think there’s a difference between a person who is drunk or speeding hitting a child, and a person accidentally running over a child they can’t see. The first is negligence, the second is an accident. There is no need to punish people for accidents.

    @SOA, the idea that if we punish people more harshly for things, then other people won’t do it, is such an American idea, and a really dangerous one at that. We’ve been trying it for at least 40 years now, and all we’ve really ended up with are many ruined lives and a whole lot of overcrowded prisons.

    The reality is, as tragic as these cases are, they happen rarely (there are about 40 heatstroke deaths per year in cars in the U.S., and IIRC about 75% of those are due to parents accidentally forgetting the child). They happen far more rarely than many other types of accidents. They happen so rarely that it is futile and cruel to point to some supposed epidemic of selfish parents valuing their SUVs and big houses over the lives of their children or to think that we need more PSAs/policies or that locking this man up for murder would be a reasonable means to change parental behavior and reduce the number.

    Yes, it would be nice if 0 children a year died in this way, that would be ideal. But it’s hard to imagine that, when millions (probably tens of millions) of infants and toddlers are driven around and brought to day care or babysitters each year in this country, and 40 a year are accidentally left in cars for the day and die (a number that has remained pretty stable since we’ve been tracking it, and that has NOT increased in the last two decade), it’s something that warrants an extremely punitive response or significant behavioral changes on the part of all parents or all day care providers.

    It’s not a free range issue, but it’s an issue of assessing risk rationally. People don’t think this won’t happen to think because they think they are such awesome parents, but because it’s exceedingly statistically unlikely that it will happen to them. That is not to say that a parent who has reason to believe they might be at increased risk for something like this–if they are off their routine, for example, or have a new baby at home and things are chaotic, or have recently moved, etc.–shouldn’t take precautions, just that these are tragic, tragic accidents, not signs of an epidemic we need to take draconian measures to stem.

  14. stacey June 20, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    From that article… key take away:
    Humans, have a fundamental need to create and maintain a narrative for their lives in which the universe is not implacable and heartless, that terrible things do not happen at random, and that catastrophe can be avoided if you are vigilant and responsible.
    We are vulnerable, but we don’t want to be reminded of that. We want to believe that the world is understandable and controllable and un threatening; that if we follow the rules, we’ll be okay.

  15. anonymous mom June 20, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    @Stephanie, but not all accidents are the result of negligence. Some truly are simply accidents.

    Yes, leaving a gun out where a child can get at it, even if you think it’s unloaded, is negligent. But, sometimes kids/teens get to guns that truly are safely stored, and in those cases, it really is an accident.

    My mom had a parent of one of her students accidentally run over a child. The mom was taking her older kids to school. She thought the toddler was inside, because he usually was. It turns out he had gotten out and, once she’d gotten everybody settled in the car, was playing at the back of her car where she couldn’t see him. She ran him over and he died. It was horrible and tragic. And it was an accident. Due diligence doesn’t require that we double check behind our car wheels before we drive anywhere. She didn’t act negligently.

    If this father had forgotten to get his child to daycare because he had been drunk or high or doing something that he should have reasonably known would impair his ability to care for his child, I’d agree we were dealing with negligence, even criminal negligence. But that does not seem to be the case. He simply forgot. Forgetting something does not make you negligent, just human, even when that forgetting has extremely grave and tragic consequences.

  16. savoir faire June 20, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    I disagree with the way you’re describing “accidents” — as if there is no human agency at work and it’s simply a force of nature. The kid falling off her tricycle is an accident; the driver who hits the kid in the driveway is negligent. It may have been unintentional, and it may be less of a crime than speeding or drunk driving, but it’s still negligence.

  17. Ben June 20, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    Wasn’t murder supposed to be the charge for people who intentionally killed someone and planned to do so prior to the act in question? It seems to me Cobb County would have a hard time proving murder. Manslaughter perhaps, but charging a grieving father with a murder you can’t even prove is ridiculous.

  18. Mike in Virginia June 20, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    @SOA – The issue is not whether or not the man was responsible for what happened. He clearly was. It wasn’t about whether or not he could have prevented it, because he could have. The issue is that he cannot possibly be punished any more than he already has, with the loss of his child. The purpose of imprisonment is either to A. Create a deterrent to crime (there is no deterrent greater than losing a child) B. To rehabilitate (there is nothing to rehabilitate here – he learned his lesson – he lost his child) or C. To remove dangerous criminals from the street so they don’t harm others (and it is hard to imagine he is dangerous or will ever do this again).

    I agree this is not a Free Range issue, but this is Lenore’s blog and she sees some similarities between the mentality that drives people to imprison this father and that which drives us to judge other parenting behavior and create laws that do prevent Free Ranging.

  19. SOA June 20, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    But he was negligent because he failed to do even one of the prevention steps that are nailed into our heads over and over with PSAs. If he did even one or two of those steps and it still happened, I would be a lot more sympathetic. People never go anywhere without their phones nowadays, why not put your phone back there next to the child?

  20. Melanie Jones June 20, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    Tony, I get what you are saying, that it is just a charge. I guess what I think is unfortunate, and it is just the way things are – this charge is going to cost tax payers a lot, and it is going to cost this young family a lot. I realize that the responsibility of parenthood isn’t to be taken lightly. But I do think he deserves to, for instance, be able to attend the child’s funeral. To grieve with his spouse. And the judicial system today deals out a lot of financial ‘punishment’ even if someone is found “not guilty”. It is also another case where a child has died because of laws that require that children be restrained in the back seat, and a lack of technology to warn parents when children are left in the back seat and forgotten – the main way that children die in a hot car – accidentally trapping themselves without the knowledge of an adult, or accidentally left in a five point restraint by a parent and then the child is rendered incapable of escaping (or the child is too young to unbuckle anyway). I feel this is different from the cases where a gun is supposed to be secured and isn’t, because parents don’t have a choice in restraining their child in the back seat if they ever want to leave their house. They have to transport their child. They are compelled to follow the law. They have no options for a system that would remind them. Owning a gun is optional, and certainly having it out when a child is present is optional. The statistics are clear: these kids started dying when carseats moved to the back seat. No matter how many campaigns, no matter how many parents sign on and swear to never intentionally leave a child in a hot car, kids are going to keep dying as long as parents forget. And tired new parents are going to continue to forget until the technology/law changes.

  21. anonymous mom June 20, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

    @Stephanie, if a baseball player hits a ball that strikes a child in the stands on the head and kills them, is that negligence? It is one possible outcome of their actions. It wasn’t an act of God. There was human agency involved. But it was still an accident.

    Negligence does not mean not being as cautious as humanly possible and not guarding against any possibly; it means failing to exercise the same care a reasonably prudent person would. I consider myself a reasonably prudent person: I’ll glance around when getting in my car to see if kids are around, but I do not, before driving my car, get out and check to make sure no children are hiding behind my back wheels. Bad things can happen even if we exercise reasonable prudence. That’s just an unfortunate fact of life.

    The other day I found my youngest sitting near one of our electrical outlets with a spoon in his hand. Scared me to death. Thank God he didn’t stick the spoon in. But, were his actions a result of negligence? I don’t think so. Like most reasonably-prudent people with toddlers in the house, all of my unused electrical sockets have covers on them. However, this particular socket had a fan plugged into it. I had not expected him, while I was in the bathroom for a few minutes, to take a spoon out of the kitchen drawer to play with and then unplug the fan. If he had gotten electicued, that would have been absolutely horrible. I do believe it would have been an accident, though, not the result of negligence in the legal sense. Again, negligence doesn’t mean failing to consider every possible outcome, but exercising reasonable care to ensure safety. And it would be nice if our reasonable care would ALWAYS ensure safety, but unfortunately it doesn’t.

    We are just such a cruel, punitive society, even as we hide our cruelty under the guise of concern for children. But punishing adults for accidents does not increase safety for children; it just makes the rest of us feel like an unpredictable, imperfect world full of imperfect people is more controllable than it really is.

  22. anonymous mom June 20, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    @SOA, given that it doesn’t look like rates of these sorts of deaths have changed since they started being tracked in the mid-90s–before people were given prevention tips (although, honestly, I have personally never seen a PSA or gotten a flyer from my pediatrician or been provided with any information about this, so I’m not sure this is something as in the forefront of every parent’s mind as you think)–I’m not sure these tips about things like leaving your wallet in the back seat actually make any difference. Personally, I’ve forgotten my wallet, phone, or bag in the car many times, but I’ve never forgotten my children, so I’m not sure that making sure I always left my bag in the backseat would be a useful preventative measure.

    Not putting your wallet in the backseat so that you don’t forget your child is not an act of criminal negligence.

  23. anonymous mom June 20, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    And, I should add, it’s certainly not an act of MURDER. Because that’s what we’re saying here if we think this is a just punishment: that this father’s failure to leave his wallet in the backseat as a reminder to not forget his child was an act of murder.

  24. Maribel June 20, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

    If they can make the car beep when we don’t put our seatbelt on, why can’t they make it beep when a child is left in the car with no driver?

  25. SOA June 20, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    I don’t think murder is a good charge unless they can prove something like he was heard telling people he didn’t want kids anymore or something that showed maybe it was premeditated.

    However, manslaughter may be a correct charge. People accidentally kill others through negligence all the time. And that is what manslaughter is for. If it was the baby sitter that did this everyone would be calling for her head. So why does he become immune just because it is his child?

    At the very least we need a set way we handle these as far as what they are charged with and then they need to follow through keeping it consistent from case to case. If they are going to charge a babysitter with manslaughter for doing this, then the mother or father needs to be charged with manslaughter too. It is either a crime to leave a baby accidentally in the car or it isn’t. Let’s answer that and then stay consistent with it.

  26. SOA June 20, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

    I have seen the PSAs about this in several parenting magazines. I think they put one out every spring/summer with an article about preventing this. I see things about it on the news or on tv or on internet articles basically giving the tips on how to prevent it every time it happens again to another child. I did not come up with those prevention tips on my own. I repeated them verbatim from the many articles or news stories I have seen over the last 7 years or so about preventing this.

    I forgot one other one I remember hearing to add: tape a large enough not to miss picture of the child on the steering wheel when the kid is in the backseat so you will notice it while driving. And another one. Always make a habit where you exit your car and walk to the back window and look in before walking away from the car. If you do that every single time you exit the vehicle much like remembering to lock the car door, it will become second nature and you will always do it.

  27. Erin June 20, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    To those stating this isn’t a Free-Range issue: I strongly disagree. The minds that have drawn a murder charge out of this accident are the same ones who are calling CPS over a mom leaving her children in the car with the windows down on a mild day while she runs in the store for a few minutes. They are the minds that can’t make distinctions between real and perceived threats, between an accident and abuse. This man is clearly being made an example of, and not only is it heartbreaking, it’s frightening.

    I’m the mom of three young boys. I’ve had nightmares about forgetting one of them in the car since the day they were born. The notion that knowing I may face a murder charge would make me be more mindful is foolish and laughable! As if anything could be worse than the death of one of my children!

  28. Donna June 20, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

    SOA – Like anon mom, I’ve never see all these PSAs you are talking about. Many, many parents don’t actually read parenting magazines or spend time on parenting websites or even watch TV regularly. I do none of these things.

    Further, the idea that you can prevent forgetting something that you never in a million years think that you would forget is ridiculous. No tricks are going to help you remember something that you never thought that you would forget. And this is proven in the fact that it has not stopped happening although everyone knows about the possibility. You’d have to live on a deserted island for the last 20 years not to have been exposed to incidences of this occurring.

    And, no, I don’t think most people would be pushing the prosecution of a babysitter if the babysitter likewise simply forgot. Prosecuting people for unintentional acts doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t bring the child back. It doesn’t make it less likely to happen again. It is just blibd vengence.

  29. Andy June 20, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    Murder does not sound like fitting crime to me. Maybe it is defined differently then I think, but I sort of assumed that murder is intentional killing. I sure that better fitting charges for unintentional deaths exist.

  30. Beth June 20, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    I, personally, have never had it pounded into my head that I should call my husband each day to make sure he dropped the kids off where he was supposed to. It would never even occur to me to do such a thing, and even if it had been pounded into my head, I still wouldn’t take that allegedly reasonable step. It’s insulting.

  31. SOA June 20, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

    It is more about changes in routine where it happens. So yes if my husband was in charge of dropping the kids off at daycare when he normally just drives in to work, I would absolutely double check with the daycare to make sure they got there. My husband is a man of routine so I know something like that could throw him off. He said he is not insulted by that, he says it makes sense that even though he probably would not do it, he could understand double checking because he can be forgetful and routine oriented.

    See you are proving my point, People are so full of their parenting skills they don’t think they could make such a mistake so they don’t do even one of the prevention steps. It is not insulting to admit you are human. I am realistic enough to know I am not perfect. So I take some steps to help remind me of things like this or cover my ass.

    It is not hurting any kids independence or self sufficientness to keep a teddy bear in the car seat and move it to the front seat when you put the kid in the car and then move it back when you get them out. It is just an easy way to prevent something that takes .1 second.

  32. K June 20, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

    I think there are imperfections by a reasonably large percentage of parents over the 18 years and in many cases longer that people raise children. They aren’t bad people, just human. People have temporary lapses of memory about something, if not the child in the carseat, during these long time spans whether they like to admit it or not. So far they just haven’t experienced such tragic consequences. Some people develop new psychiactric problems, and as a society we are very harsh in dealing with those problems until the person manages to see a doctor who might not have any openings for 6 months. Some of us might just have a day when we are really exhausted and fall asleep when we should be awake watching what is going on. Some people do not follow CPS laws like supervisory guidelines and may not even know they exist. I think that generally we are not “better” than this man. We just haven’t had this unfortunate experience. I don’t really think criminal charges for this man are appropriate and I think that if we push for criminal charges every time there is some bad luck we will lose the few freedoms we have left. When people think they wouldn’t do something that doesn’t always mean that they wouldn’t do something else that could have bad consequences or that the decision to do whatever it is shouldn’t be the parents despite the bad consequences someone else experienced. As it is, it is illegal to leave the child in the car for just a few minutes and that is a free-range issue. Laws are set up so that parents are at risk w/CPS even if the accident happens while the child is at school or a school sponsored sporting activity. The parent is guilty of having allowed the child to participate. We criminalize parents too much for anything and everything and then we wonder why children should grow up in an antispetic bubble. I think the rights are being lost at an alarming rate and that is bad for everyone, not just this child and father. I think we should generally sympathize, rather than criminalize. This man has lost his child.

  33. Bill K June 20, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

    When did America drop the principle of “mens rea” (essentially,
    criminal intent) from its criminal justice system? Is this yet
    another aspect of the great social experiment that’s been going on
    since 1980?

  34. anonymous mom June 20, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    @Bill K, I am by no means a legal expert, but I think that intent is an element of some crimes but not others. However, I had thought intent was an element of murder, so the charges here are confusing. However, overcharging people, sometimes wildly, is extremely common, and that’s probably what we’re seeing here.

  35. K June 20, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

    Yes, overcharging parents is in my opinion extremely common.

  36. Sandra Lynne June 20, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

    re: whether this is free range material–free range to me means fighting back against government/society when they try to reduce my freedom to raise my children in what I consider to be a sensible way. You could stretch this to say that the government is overstepping its legitimate authority by charging the father with murder.
    Or maybe the DA feels for the father and is charging him with murder so he’ll get off scott free.

  37. Donna June 20, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

    Bill K and anon mom – From what I have read, the father is charged with felony murder, not malice murder. These are two separate crimes.

    Malice murder is what most people think of as murder. It is the intentional killing of someone or acting so reckless that death is highly likely (eg. playing Russian Roulette).

    Felony murder is simply a death that occurs during the commission of another felony. If you commit a felony and someone dies in some remotely foreseeable way as a result of your felonious actions, you can be convicted of murder for that death even if you never intended for anyone to die. The death could be of a co-defendant, victim of the original crime, bystander, cop or someone else. You don’t even have to have done the act that ultimately caused the death (eg. the cops shoot your hostage trying hit you, your burglarly victim shoots one of your co-conspirators killing him, a robbery victim fires back and hits a bystander, a cop wrecks during a high speed chance and dies, a news helicopter crashes covering your crime). The death can be of natural causes (eg. a rape victim has a heart attack during the rape).

    As I understand it based on the charges, in this case the underlying felony is cruelty to children for leaving the child in the car. All the DA has to prove is that the dad is guilty of cruelty to children and that the death was foreseeable from his actions. The second part of this case is obvious, but getting a conviction for cruelty to children is more difficult.

  38. Donna June 20, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

    chase, not chance

  39. anonymous mom June 20, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

    Donna, thanks for the clarification.

    Is cruelty to children a crime that requires intent?

  40. Donna June 20, 2014 at 8:05 pm #

    Anon mom – All crimes require some intent. However, that intent is usually just the intent to commit the act that is a crime. You don’t have to intend to commit a crime or even know that you did.

    So, cruelty to children requires some level of intent, but doesn’t require bad intent – you don’t have to intend to be cruel. If I were his attorney, I would certainly argue intent – he didn’t intend to leave the child in the car. I’ve never had one of these cases so I don’t know what level of intent would be needed.

    I think Dolly hit it on the head and it would not surprise me if this case ultimately resolves at manslaughter.

  41. Beth June 20, 2014 at 8:05 pm #

    Dolly, I am not “so full” of my parenting skills, and I know that I can and do make mistakes (unlike you). But I am not about to call my child care provider, or my husband, every day that he’s in charge of transportation to see if he did what he was supposed to do.

    Guess I don’t love my kids quite as much as I should.

  42. Michelle June 20, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    Dolly, let me just say that I’ve been a parent longer than you have, and the first time I heard about these tips that are supposedly pounded into every parent’s head was yesterday. That was only the teddy bear one; the others you listed are completely new to me. I don’t read magazines at all, and I don’t watch any TV except pre-recorded shows, but I do hang out on parenting message boards, and have for over a decade. So maybe you can stop insisting that surely everyone else knows everything *you* know.

    Also, you seem to think this problem would be alleviated if those selfish working moms would give up their BMWs for the sake of their kids. I’m a SAHM, always have been, and I homeschool my kids, so I am always around them. I once forgot my son in the car. We were visiting friends and needed something from the store. My husband and I left the kids at the house, but decided to take the baby at the last minute. He was asleep in the back seat, and we were chatting and enjoying the moment, and we just forgot. Thankfully, it was a five minute shopping trip. I was horrified, of course, but if I remember correctly, he didn’t even wake up.

    Finally, I can’t even believe the suggestion that jail time is what’s needed to get parents to think twice. You honestly believe that going to prison sounds like a worse fate than losing your child?? Are you KIDDING? Really?!?

  43. Nicole 2 June 20, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    @Stacey airbags cannot be turned off in most vehicle, at least not in the US. In Europe they have a key off switch, in the US a key off switch is illegal in all but 2-3 passenger vehicles. There are sensors that are suppose to deactivate, however they don’t reliably stay off with a car seat in the front seat, as they aren’t intended for car seats but rather for people.

    So please, please don’t put a rear facing seat in the front seat, those airbags are incredibly deadly to rear facing children.

  44. Rachel June 20, 2014 at 9:55 pm #

    At most, this father is guilty of neglect, unless he had chosen to impair himself somehow, by being drunk or high on the way to work. Not one report has indicated such. Why do people think that jailing this man would be any more punishment than what he’s already suffering? What is the point of prison? To punish and re-educate so that the perpetrator will not commit the crime again, and to deter others from considering such a crime. How, in any way, will society benefit from the incarceration of this man? There’s no need for deterrent — no loving parent wants to do this! There’s no need to punish. He’s already punished. Forever. Re-education? You think he’s going to make the same mistake again? No. The entire case is a waste of taxpayer time and money. Let’s spend it on actual criminals, please.
    As for those who are angry and want him punished because he didn’t take the “simple steps” he could have to not forget his child, like having the daycare call (why didn’t they, and why would it be his fault if they didn’t?) then I say they can rest assured that he is suffering well out of proportion for his lack of preparation. He’s suffering a $100,000,000,000 penalty for his $100 crime of not having a memory aide. Feel righteous, Judgy McJudgalots, (who I am sure have never made a mistake, ever) he’s suffering.

  45. Warren June 20, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

    All my kids did just fine, in rear facing seats with the airbags locked out. Had no choice in the pickup.

    Dolly, all those things you want people to leave in the backseat, from phones to wallets to keys to whatever are all things people forget on a regular basis.

    This incident is nothing more than bad things happen to good people. And should be left as such.

  46. Will June 20, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

    Similar story here in AZ.


    The case is a little different, because of substance abuse, and that’s possibly what led to this. But this could have been alcohol, or particularly strong medication as well. This father is getting 4 years. Now. If there was a pattern of abuse, and that led to the child’s death, then that’s outrageous. But this… well. There’s a line here somewhere. I feel like maybe this dad was willfully irresponsible (getting high at work? Really?), and he does deserve punishment for that. But if he had just forgotten, like the Atlanta case, I’d be totally on board with a sentence of “live with your mistake”.

  47. Donna June 20, 2014 at 10:33 pm #


    I haven’t seen a single piece of evidence that any of your tips work. The rate of kids forgotten in cars is largely unchanged over the last 20 years.

    Further, kids are generally left in the car because of change in routine. Putting your wallet, cell phone, etc. in the backseat of the car is also a change in routine. I’m not sure why one should expect to remember a minor change in routine, like a wallet, and not a MAJOR change in routine like a CHILD. Seems to me that you’ve now just forgotten your child AND your wallet in the car.

    And many of us don’t actually use our wallets, cell phones, etc. during the day enough to look for them right away. If I forget my cell phone in the car, I don’t notice unless I need my cell phone (unlikely with a phone and a computer right on my desk). If I forget my wallet in the car, I am unlikely to notice it at all unless I go out to lunch or do some online shopping from the office. I may eventually remember my lunch if I put it back there, but none until around noon – 4 hours after I left the kid in the car.

  48. David DeLugas June 20, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    [Erin, please get in touch (I am in Marietta, too).]

    Add to this tragedy, as so eloquently stated by Lenore, that “[v]engeance does not bring anyone back, nor does it prevent any more deaths, nor can it possibly teach this dad any lesson he has not already had seared on his soul[ ]” is that other children are NOT safer by subjecting other parents whose children are UNHARMED to investigation by CPS, to having their children taken from them, or to being arrested (whether or not later charged with a crime) for running in to pay for gas and pick up a snack while a child sits in a car or for going into a store to pick up dry cleaning or make a return while her child is in a locked car with AC running happily watching a video on an iPad. Yes, let’s caution parents whose children are UNHARMED; let’s use common sense about what actually puts a child at risk of harm before we criminalize every occasion where a child is left alone at home or in a car for a matter of minutes as a risk assessment under the watchful and loving care of the parent. Do not allow disasters such as this one to curtail all parenting decisions and make all decisions of what is acceptable and not to be made by some seemingly omniscient governing body empowered by people whose hearts may be in the right place, but whose flawed reasoning claims that laws and criminal charges will prevent injuries to children (which is not true). Let’s not become a lynch mob society where children who are unharmed, but were in a position some might consider “too risky” as the grounds upon which parents are stripped of the freedom to make decisions for their own children (so long as not harming them). LIKE, JOIN or DONATE to the National Association of Parents where the Constitution aligns with Free Range Kids in all respects. https://www.parentsusa.org

  49. thomas June 20, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

    @SOA – I am not as easy to overlook your condescending attitude towards this father and his family. You have no idea what his and their life are like. I take extreme offense to your comments about the family downsizing, taking less stressful jobs or having one parent staying home with the kids. Stick to the facts, to what you know, because you certainly don’t know enough about this family to prescribe a solution.

    Finally, have some compassion on this man, I don’t care how may PSA’s, warning labels, etc. that are put in front of us, people still make mistakes. This father has paid enough, and will continue to pay, even without the criminal justice system raining hell upon his head. Tragically, more than one life was lost that day, you can’t comfort the child anymore, but you can comfort the family.

  50. Tiffany Borges June 20, 2014 at 11:04 pm #

    I hope someone can find the epic piece (NYT? Atlantic?) written last summer which really delved in to this topic. It’s difficult to read, an understatement, but afterwards my heart and mind were softened to a raw degree for these fellow parents. And it’s true, it could be any one of us. Straight up.

  51. Tiffany Borges June 20, 2014 at 11:08 pm #

    Okay, here you go ~ with warning that any trace of superiority or sanctimonious lecture inside someone towards these parents will extinguish after reading it.) And I guess it’s quite a bit older than I thought … I just read it last year. I hope it’s OK to put big ugly links in your comments, Ms Lenore. http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/fatal-distraction-forgetting-a-child-in-thebackseat-of-a-car-is-a-horrifying-mistake-is-it-a-crime/2014/06/16/8ae0fe3a-f580-11e3-a3a5-42be35962a52_story.html

  52. no rest for the weary June 20, 2014 at 11:31 pm #

    Usually, I can ignore you, SOA, but today, I’m giving in to self-indulgent desires to lash out.

    Oh my God what you wrote just left me seething from the sense of self-righteousness and derision for someone who made a MISTAKE for God’s sake and all I can think of is how much I want YOU to get your f’ing comeuppance, the kind of thing where you stand back and say, “Jeepers, all my life I’ve been judging people when they made mistakes or seemed to slight me, and now here I’ve gone and done something even less forgivable. Who was I to judge?”

  53. no rest for the weary June 20, 2014 at 11:33 pm #

    Because, in the end, there is NOTHING another person does that we ourselves are not capable of, given the proper circumstances. To deny this is to deny our own humanity.

    To say, “This person DESERVES to be punished” is to damn yourself to a life of struggle to constantly prove what YOU deserve.

    So just… stop it.

  54. JKP June 21, 2014 at 12:31 am #

    To the person who asked why we don’t have a warning system in place, like they do for seatbelts, apparently a NASA engineer designed one (after a coworker forgot a child in a hot car) but no one would manufacture it and no car companies would include it. Because of liability. It would save lives, but companies are worried about the liability if parents relied on the warning system, and then if even once the device failed to warn them and a child died, then the companies would be liable for that death.

    Talk about worst first thinking. If 40 kids die each year from being forgotten, and what if it took 5 years before an incident of the device failing resulted in the death of a child. That would be 200 kids saved before that one death who would have been forgotten and died anyway without the warning system in the first place. But companies would rather those 200 kids died than take on the liability of the 1 death that remained.

  55. Nicole 2 June 21, 2014 at 12:44 am #

    @Warrent It’s fine and safe in your truck with the key off switch. It’s not fine in, say, a sedan or minivan that can’t have them.

    I wish all vehicles had them, personally. There are enough situations where you’d want a rear facing child in the front seat to warrant it, and front seats are becoming much more safe than they use to be, plus rear facing is very safe, so if a child needs to be in the front seat, all things considered, a rear facing child would be the most protected.

  56. Warren June 21, 2014 at 12:52 am #


    Sorry but I am getting sick and freaking tired of all these devices people want installed on cars.

    I am not being cold, but I look at my truck and figure it would be about 5 grand less, without all that crap. Crap on there because other people screwed up, or just had bad luck. Yet everyone that buys a vehicle has to pay thru the nose.

    And a lot of these things are actually not anywhere near as effective or worth the bother.

    Take for example tire pressure monitoring systems. Unless you are driving an ultra high performance car, these systems are a pain in the ass, expensive and often misleading. Luckily they are not mandatory up here yet. I have been in the tire business pretty much all my life, and me and a lot of my fellow tire techs actually believe that these systems have led to more problems than they solve.

    And as for Dolly/SOA, she will get hers one day. She will get judgemental with the wrong person and will get taught a harsh lesson.

  57. Amanda Matthews June 21, 2014 at 12:57 am #

    I can’t believe it but I actually agree with SOA for once, not with the ridiculous prevention measures (which I HAVE heard of, but which I find ridiculous and which I would probably do only once or twice before thinking they are more trouble than they are worth) but with this:

    “It also seems to happen more to working parents. If you are too overwhelmed with your job that you could be so bogged down that this could happen to you, maybe you should downsize your life and let one of the parents stay at home with the kids. Or find a less stressful job. I know that is not an option for everyone but sometimes if you would trade the giant house for a smaller house or the fancy brand new SUV for a used sedan, it could be possible. It is about priorities. We don’t have to have the biggest and best of everything. We do without a lot so I can stay at home with our kids and not have to be running around all the time.”

    If your mind is more preoccupied with your job than your kids then something should change. Is the money and material items really worth it? And if facing that offends you then maybe you need to look at why that is.

  58. Buffy June 21, 2014 at 1:28 am #

    Huh. So someone who needs to work to support their family (and seriously, who of us DOESN’T need to have at least one income?)shouldn’t, because having a job and oh horrors! thinking about their work might make them forget their child in a car?


  59. Warren June 21, 2014 at 3:08 am #

    You are failing to see Amanda’s and SOA’s logic. Stop working and you cannot afford to have a vehicle, therefore you have no vehicle to leave your baby in. Makes perfect sense.

    Other than that they are just holierthanthou.

  60. baby-paramedic June 21, 2014 at 6:08 am #

    Okay, I periodically teach a new parents class. The one where we go over when to call for an ambulance, what to do if your child chokes, etc.
    We DO mention the bit about not leaving children in cars for too long, because we live in a pretty hot part of Australia, and we have had kids die from it. It is just a mention though.
    And not ONCE have I or any of the other educators mentioned any of these tips Dolly tells us that everyone must know (I haven’t come across most of them). And I am a TRAINER. It is my job to know what sort of thing we like to teach people now.

  61. Donna June 21, 2014 at 6:31 am #

    Amanda (and Dolly) – It isn’t “thinking about the job” that makes one forget their child. It almost always happens in a change of routine.

    The human brain developed so that we don’t have to think through the steps of every mundane activity. Mostly that is a good thing – we don’t actually have to think about how to tie our shoes every single time we put them on; we just know.

    However, sometimes it is tragic. When you get in your car every day at 7:30 and drive the exact same route to the exact same place the autopilot mechanism of the brain tends to takeover on those trips. People who do this have long since stopped thinking about what they need to do when they get into the car at 7:30; their brain just knows. This is a problem if the routine changes.

    I’ve never forgotten my child in the car, but I can see how it happens. I have temporarily forgotten my child through a change in routine, just not in the car. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been driving only to realize at some point that I was going the wrong way. Like taking a morning off work to go to the doctor and finding yourself halfway to work before you say “\!&#\” and turn around to go to the doctor. It happens.

    The reason it happens more often with working parents is that (a) they have a routine that involves leaving the house at the same time to go to the same place every morning and SAHPs generally don’t, and (b) that routine doesn’t involve their children.

  62. Donna June 21, 2014 at 6:48 am #

    And I agree with Warren about a car kid sensor. There is enough stupid crap on cars; we don’t need more. And the whole cause of this is a brain that goes on autopilot. More sensors just allow us to zone out more … until that sensor breaks and the kid gets left in the car because we’ve trained our brain not to worry about a kid unless we hear a certain beep.

  63. BL June 21, 2014 at 8:00 am #

    “There is enough stupid crap on cars; we don’t need more.”

    Yes. I think every time I’ve had a serious “warning light” go on, it was the warning system that itself was faulty, not the engine or tires or whatever. Pretty soon you tune it out.

  64. anonymous mom June 21, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I’m really appalled by the idea that 1) working parents are selfish people who put fancy SUVs and big houses above the welfare of their children and 2) somehow random people on the internet care more about children than their horrible parents, who will only care for their children properly if we threaten them with the harshest possible punishments for not doing so.

    In every family I know where both parents work, either they have to for financial reasons or they both want to, because they enjoy their work. I don’t know anybody who is so stressed about their job and can’t handle the pressure but keeps going solely to maintain some sort of luxurious lifestyle.

    And, this father loved this child and cared more for the child’s safety than anybody here. Period. As outraged as some internet stranger might feel reading this story, they will find a new story to be outraged about in a day or two, and never think about this particular child again. The father is going to think about this child every single day for the rest of this life. It is the height of arrogance to believe that somehow other parents need to be motivated to be decent parents via legal threats because their love and concern for their children is just not enough.

  65. Emmy June 21, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    Charge him with manslaughter if we must.

    All I know is, were it me, I couldn’t live with myself, criminal charges or not.

    This man’s life is ruined. My heart is broken for him. If legalities must be satisfied, fine, but don’t pretend legal punishment is teaching him anything.

    Now, I’m in favor of little tricks to remember your kids and whatnot, but accidents and horrible things will happen.

  66. Jessica June 21, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    I am appalled by the assumption that working parents do so for big fancy cars and houses. I work for food and a roof over our heads. If I stayed home, we would not have a home. Then I guess I’d be judged for not providing for my kids. Can’t win, apparently.

    At any rate – I agree this is a free range issue because it seems we expect parents to be absolutely perfect. Never forget anything, never let down your guard, never make mistakes. Parents are held up to impossible standards.

  67. hancock June 21, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    Putting a grieving father in jail for accidently my killing his child will not bring the child back, will not save other children, and given the relative rarity of the crime, not serve as a warning to other parents.

    If there was no criminal intent, then maybe no criminal hsrges should be made. However, what does the mom think? If it isn’t a legal issue, it most definitely is a civil issue. I would not only be racked with grief, I would be enraged. I would want some kind of justice. I would see to it that this man, if there were other children, would never see them again.

    A good parent may leave a child in a car with the windows down to pay for gas, or pick up prescriptions and postage stamps. A good parent does not forget a child in a car. There is no excuse whatsoever. You don’t allow yourself to be so busy that children and family take second place in your thoughts. And no, Lenore, It’s not like forgetting the tea kettle. Everyone forgets things on the stove, but one is simply a ruined tea kettle (I’ve never even heard of a house burning down because the stove was left on), the other is a living breathing child who at the day of birth, should have permanently changed that man’s life and priorities. I’m,sure the man agrees. No good parent straps a child in a car seat, then forgets about it.

  68. Donna June 21, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    “I’ve never even heard of a house burning down because the stove was left on”

    A basic google of “house fire” and “stove” will give you hundreds of incidents. Increase the parameters to irons, curling irons/hair straighteners, space heaters and random other hot household item that people regularly accidentally leave on and I am sure you will end up with thousands of incidents. Far more than children who perish in hot vehicles.

  69. Keight Dukes June 21, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    There is already a change.org petition running for this man’s release that has nearly 8000 signatures. Would you mind linking to this petition instead Lenore? http://www.change.org/petitions/cobb-county-district-attorney-drop-murder-charges-against-justin-harris-for-son-s-accidental-death?utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_facebook_mobile&recruiter=113736050

  70. Reziac June 21, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    “Or maybe the DA feels for the father and is charging him with murder so he’ll get off scott free.”

    More likely the DA charged him with murder so he’ll plea-bargain down to something with a penalty of probation (which will also require payment of large fees to the court, usually thousands of dollars) plus “parenting classes” conveniently run by an agency associated with the court (more thousands of dollars).

    This way the DA gets to look like a hero (“we punish child neglecters!”), the DA’s office gets yet another conviction on its record, useful when they want more funding or as election campaign fodder (the average conviction rate is around 96%; do you really think that many criminal charges are valid?), and the court makes a little cash (in Los Angeles County, I conservatively guestimated the conviction-related income at around $200 per minute per judge).

    But that accidents happen? that even the most responsible people sometimes forget even the most critical things? We can’t have that, then there’s no one to blame!!

    And that’s why this IS a Free Range issue — because part of being Free Range is admitting there ARE risks in life, one of which is simple forgetfulness, and not going off the deep end in some futile attempt to eliminate every risk or punish the parents because their children aren’t chained to their ankles 24 hours a day.

  71. Michelle June 21, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    “At any rate – I agree this is a free range issue because it seems we expect parents to be absolutely perfect. Never forget anything, never let down your guard, never make mistakes. Parents are held up to impossible standards.”

    This. Absolutely.

  72. Kel June 21, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    There is a father here in FL who is being charged as well, for the same thing. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-father-charged-infant-death-truck-20140620,0,384900.story

    It’s horrific, sad, tragic. My first thought is usually “how do you forget your baby in the car?”, and my next is remembering the days of having a newborn & a 2 year old, and being tired, overwhelmed & all that goes along with those days…and I know it could have happened to me, as well.

    Unless there is some other factor (drugs, alcohol, other abuse shown), I do not think these people should be charged.

  73. Michelle June 21, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    It’s a free range issue because the mentality that “any time something goes wrong, someone must be to blame” is just another way of saying, “If you are vigilant enough, nothing bad can happen, therefore, safety is constant supervision.”

  74. Nadine June 21, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    That s so sad. Are the daycare centres not calling about their charges not showing up? With all the safty concerns and rules a curtisy call about the kid not showing seems logical.

  75. Jenna K. June 21, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    What riles me up is that sometimes parents who do this are charged with a crime and sometimes they aren’t. Not that I think they should be charged at all, unless they intentionally did it, but they shouldn’t let some off while making others go to jail for it. This is a horrible, horrible, tragic mistake that is not criminal.

  76. hancock June 21, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    @ Donna

    I just did as you suggested and googled house fire and stoves, and got almost nothing. I did however take a look at what the US DHS had to say and they agree that cook fires are indeed the most common house fire and fairly injurious, however they are among the lowest causes of structural fire and property loss. I’ve known people who’ve lost stoves to fire and had to do kitchen repairs do to fire; but the whole house? I can’t say I know anyone who has lost a home by neglecting to turn off the stove at night. It could happen, it’s just not common. And yes, fires can and do kill more children a year than roasting cars. However, we usually don’t charge manslaughter, or negligent homocide when children die in housefires. Maybe it would be more sane to leave the man at the mercy of his own guilty conscience and a grieving mother.

  77. Donna June 21, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    hancock –

    Apparently, you and I are doing two very different google searches as I just did it and ended up with 6 totally different ones on the first page (one killed a dog). All between April 2014 and the beginning of June 2014.

  78. Donna June 21, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    Also, hancock, maybe you should read the petition Keight Dukes posted which has a very eloquent statement by a different mother whose husband did this (child miraculously survived but is severely brain damaged). She doesn’t have the slightest animosity or hatred toward her husband, is still married to him and protested the criminal prosecution of him. In every article I’ve read, THAT is much closer to the response of the other parent than your vindictive mother belief.

  79. Mark Roulo June 21, 2014 at 1:56 pm #


    Here’s some recent ones:



    Try the Google “news” search rather than “web”

  80. Nicole 2 June 21, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    I read an article on CNN about it, and it appears that they think foul play was involved. The impression I got was the child may not have died from heatstroke.

    They aren’t releasing details yet, but, yeah… :(

  81. pentamom June 21, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    “Is the money and material items really worth it? ”

    Material items like food for those same kids? Yeah, that’s probably worth the cost of working so hard you’re stressed and forgetful. Not everyone lives a life where there’s plenty of stuff they could give up to give themselves less stress and more energy for good decision making. Some people have to work very hard just to survive, and thus it has ever been.

  82. Tiffany Borges June 21, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

    I think one of the fair points made about all the ‘preventative bells & whistles’ offered as keychains or sensors or whatever, is that so few people consider themselves at risk for this kind of mental vulnerability, that no one would buy the devices. Then what’s the solution ~ to mandate it? tragic truth, this happens. May all of our creativity and mercy be brought to the cause, it’s just horrible to imagine and unimaginable for the families who suffer it.

  83. Melinda Tripp June 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    Lenore speaks to more than free range issues, this is a safety issue and a warning to us all.
    I like your ideas, put a teddy bear in the front seat, or wallet/ phone in the back, whatever it takes for you to keep your kids safe.

    This happens. One Dad in our community was asked to take the baby to daycare, but in a rush went directly to work, the baby asleep. It reached 105 that day…..she probably cried, lost consciousness and died. When his wife called the office to say the daycare lady was concerned, he knew and ran to the parking lot, finding her, called 911, it was awful.
    Their marriage did not survive. There is no punishment worse than what he had given himself.
    This happens, this man you describe , like the one in our town, faced silmilar fates, but our courts proved him responsible in a humane way. Absolutely involuntary, and accidental.

    I believe their seems to be a fine line here, between negligence and accident, hopefully the judge will make a humane and wise decision.

  84. Jim Penrose June 21, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    With respect, I must strongly disagree.

    Personal responsibility is never diminished by how upset and distraught the person responsible for a child’s death may be.

    He has been charged with murder which requires intent (usually). He will likely be convicted of manslaughter (sometimes called third degree murder) depending on state laws and the jury.)

    His degree of culpability *must* be determined. Questions must be asked and answered and the State must do it on behalf of the child to make sure the death was an accident and to remind people who have a helpless life in their charge that *they* are responsible at all times.

    Let me ask a rhetorical question: If you left your child with a babysitter or a daycare operator who then “forgot” your kid in the car and the child died, would you be satisfied with his or her tears and distress and protestations of remorse?

    Or would you demand justice and prosecute the person responsible for the child’s death through neglect? How much more responsible is the parent for their child’s well being than a hired caretaker?

    How about someone who ran a red light and smashed into the car, killing the child. Should they only be punished with the red light ticket since they did not know there was a child in the car they hit and they certainly intended no harm to others?

    Clearly not their fault and if they feel sad about it, is that not enough?

    I suspect few people would accept that argument.

    No, responsibility cannot be waived merely because he ‘forgot” he had a child in the car and is now devastated. However bad *he* feels, the child remains dead, dead, dead, now and forever.

  85. Donna June 21, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

    Jim Penrose – I don’t really understand your version of “justice.” It sounds like vengence to me. What exactly does prison or probation do for you if someone ACCIDENTALLY kills your child, whether this way or via running a red light? It wouldn’t make me feel better. It isn’t going to bring my child back. It isn’t going to teach a lesson as you get punish away forgetfulness. It isn’t going to stop other people from forgetting their child in the car. It is really just the mentality of “you took my life so now I am taking yours,” and as they say an eye for an eye just makes everyone blind. I’m not saying the I would embrace someone who accidentally killed my child, but I don’t see how them going to prison does anything for me either.

  86. anonymous mom June 21, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    Jim, punishing a person does not bring the child back, either. Whether this man is convicted of murder or not, his child is dead.

    What purpose beyond vengeance does punishing a person for a genuine accident serve? As others have said, there’s only a few good reasons for locking somebody up. You might lock them up because they pose a danger to society, which isn’t the case here; I don’t think anybody would fear that society is in dangerous because of this man and our safety requires that he be behind bars. You might lock them up because they committed a serious wrong and need to be rehabilitated; what exactly does this man need to be rehabilitated from? Or, you might lock them up as a deterrent to them or others from committing the same act again, but accidental forgetting is not something that you can actually deter.

    Every time a horrible thing happens, we don’t have to make somebody else pay. Accidents happen, and calling for vengeance does not make the world any safer or accidents any less likely.

  87. lollipoplover June 21, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

    We have put children so high on the china shelf that no death can ever be truly accidental.

    Tragic mistakes happen. Humans are imperfect and have sleepless nights (especially those of toddlers) and lapses in judgement that cause tragic accidents like this one. We are all capable of it. Not one of us has a perfect record of never making a mistake.

    It breaks my heart that this child died. But grabbing a pitchfork and charging the father with murder does not bring this child back or use our judicial system as it was intended. A child dead does not equal a crime. This father has a life sentence of knowing his mistake killed his child.

  88. Dee June 21, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    I find it so sad how judgemental people are being here of all places. We are all human. There but for the. Grace of God go I. Admittedly. My husband & I are on opposite ends of this discussion. But we all can forget. Yes, sometimes life is stressful: heinous bosses, money struggles, lack of sleep. I started drinking coffee the day I almost fell asleep bringing my child to daycare. He was a terrible sleeper so I lost sleep but I had to work. Could I have forgotten him in my fog? Maybe. I don’t know. We need to stop demanding parents be perfect & lend a hand instead.

  89. David June 21, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

    I am not sure if this is the correct story to have regarding the criminalization of error, it seems as if the charges are due to it not being a situation where the dad simply forgot…http://fox6now.com/2014/06/21/georgia-toddlers-death-first-blamed-on-heat-is-ongoing-probe-police-say/

  90. SKL June 21, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

    Now I’m hearing there was evidence of something much more sinister that the cops are not releasing.

    Maybe the guy abused his child and then pretended that it was heat that killed him.

    If that is the case, it should be fairly easy to prove and hopefully we will know soon enough.

  91. Merrick June 21, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

    I despise people who say “A Good Parent could NEVER ….”

    I must not be a good parent (don’t tell my kids!), then.

    I can tell you that I’ve DONE it… One day I stopped for gas on the way to work between dropping my Oldest son off at 1st Grade and my then-youngest at day care. Something I NEVER did. I usually filled up at night. But I needed gas that morning. Which took me PAST the daycare in my route to work.

    I finished filling up, looked anxiously at the clock, and drove to work. While my toddler slept buckled up in the back seat. I parked at work and started to lock up the car, and spotted him in the backseat. The Lord only knows what could have happened. The school where I worked was not in a great neighborhood and the parking lot was the other side of the building from my classroom. I took him in, found someone to sub for my morning class and took him back to daycare. HORRIFIED. This was more than a decade ago and I still shiver when I think about it.

    It can happen. Really it can. To anyone.

  92. SOA June 21, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    For the people wishing me to “Get mine” that is nice that you are wishing for something horrible to happen to my kids. You are a pillar of humanity.

    As someone else said I am the first to offer help. If a parent friend of mine called me up and said “I am exhausted have not slept in days, I am worried I might fall asleep driving my kid to drop off at daycare” I would offer to drop them off for them. Or come watch the kid so they can get some sleep. So I walk the walk of the talk I talk. I want this to never happen to any kid. So if someone asked me to help them, I would. If they asked me to call and check with them every morning to make sure they dropped the child off at daycare, I would.

    I said this before, but this is a very easy way to dispose of a child where everyone will give you sympathy and love and support and you will get away with it. Now I realize the chances of this are very very very slim, however some people do kill their children. It is a thing that rarely rarely happens, but it still happens. So at the very least they should at least investigate it to make sure it was truly an accident. Let’s not give people a scot free way of getting away with disposing of a child and making it look like an accident.

  93. Jim Penrose June 21, 2014 at 7:52 pm #

    ” don’t really understand your version of “justice.” It sounds like vengence to me.”

    So, out of curiosity, you do not favor jailing or punishing drunk drivers who kill? Surely they are not responsible for their actions or the affect of those actions if I understand you rightly? They also intended no harm. Often time after time in fact.

    If you do feel they should be punished, please explain how it differs from Dad leaving the baby to cook in the car for an entire day? Why is the drunk more responsible for his action towards strangers than the father of a child would be for his child’s safety?

    The “eye for an eye” thing is highly recommended by the god of the Hebrew Bible aka “Old Testament” and that being is supposed to be infallible, but that’s an argument for another day.

    If people can escape punishment by wailing and crying and being sorry for their actions and claiming they meant no harm, thus avoiding penalty for their failure, the world would would, it seems to me, dissolve into chaos.

    May I remind you that the first defense of the sexual harasser is that he “meant no harm” and “didn’t know it would offend” yet that won’t keep him from being fired or sued for large sums of money.

    The law recognizes a “duty of care” or similar words regarding a parent and their child. “Oops, I forgot the kid was in the car all day” violates that duty in a rather definite and fatal way.

    Would you accept a nurse whose patient died for lack of medication making the excuse “I was busy and tired and just forgot, I’m terribly sorry but your kid’s dead so why go on about it now?”

  94. SKL June 21, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

    Those who feel it could not happen to them should read this story:


    Of course if your kids are 7, it probably won’t happen to you. And also, because this is really very rare, it probably won’t happen to most of the great parents you know. Thank goodness! But it happens to good parents.

    As I mentioned on another thread, the incidence of this type of tragedy skyrocketed after passenger seat airbags were introduced – because that forced parents to put their kids in the back seat. Now the law requires this, at least in some states. “Out of sight, out of mind” is for real.

    People like me and SOA are unlikely to forget our kids because our normal is to have our kids with us when we go out. That doesn’t mean we are better parents than anyone else.

  95. anonymous mom June 21, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

    Jim, how can you compare driving drunk to forgetting a child in a car? One is knowingly, willingly engaging in an extremely risky behavior. The other is a mistake.

    SKL, I’m not sure that SAHMs are less likely to forget their kids than other people; the only issue is that they are usually not gone for 8 hour blocks of time, so the consequences are less dire. But I’ve known more than a few SAHMs who’ve admitted that when they were off their routine because they had a child who was usually at school home with them, they forgot somebody. They went to pick another child up from school and realized that they had left somebody at home alone, because they were so in the routine of taking one child with them on the trip. Or a mom with two little ones and one school age one left a little one at home because she usually only had two with her when she made trips during the day. Stuff like that does happen, and not infrequently. Again, it’s just that the consequences are generally less grave because we’re talking about much shorter times periods.

    Obviously if this man had directly harmed his child earlier, it’s an entirely different story. But, the idea that “no good parent could forget a child” is just not true.

  96. anonymous mom June 21, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    Jim, which mistakes would you NOT punish for, then? If I turn my head and my child dashes into the street and is hit by a driver who doesn’t see them, should I be charged with murder (or is it just the driver who you’d want to see punished as a murderer)?

    Every time we have a loss, another person doesn’t have to pay. The issue is not whether somebody is crying/wailing/saying sorry; the issue is whether they acted with any harmful intent or were even negligent in a criminal sense. Yes, if you were to shoot my child in the head and then tell me how sorry you were and cry and wail, that wouldn’t mitigate the need for punishment. But, if you were driving down the street safely and my toddler ran in front of you and you could not stop in time and killed him, no, I don’t think you deserve punishment, not because you are sorry or are crying, but because it was an accident. Accidents do not warrant punishment.

  97. Buffy June 21, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    “As someone else said I am the first to offer help.”

    I don’t think anyone said this about you. We don’t know you; we only know about your awesomeness because you tell us about it at every opportunity.

    And man, I don’t want to live in your world where parents are on the lookout for easy ways to “dispose” of a child.

  98. Donna June 21, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    “So, out of curiosity, you do not favor jailing or punishing drunk drivers who kill? Surely they are not responsible for their actions or the affect of those actions if I understand you rightly?”

    How exactly are drunk drivers not responsible for their actions? They intentionally got drunk and then decided to drive a car. They are responsible for the result of those CHOICES.

    How does the CHOICE to drink and drive have anything whatsoever to do with forgetting something?

    That said, I’ve been hit by a drunk driver (drugs actually) in a collision that would have at least seriously injured my child if we had been in a sedan instead of a station wagon. Yes, it was heart stopping to look into my backseat to see my license plate, still attached to the car, two inches from my child’s head. I wasn’t gunning for her to go to jail. In fact, I never even followed up on the case once the insurance claim was done and I have no idea whether she was convicted or not.

    What is it that you think prosecuting someone for an accident accomplishes? It doesn’t bring the dead person back. It doesn’t make other people less forgetful. It doesn’t override the child’s death as motivation for the actual parent to be less forgetful in the future. It doesn’t give meaning to the death. It does absolutely nothing. And costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. For absolutely no value.

  99. Donna June 21, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

    “Would you accept a nurse whose patient died for lack of medication making the excuse “I was busy and tired and just forgot, I’m terribly sorry but your kid’s dead so why go on about it now?”

    Do I think the nurse should be fired? Absolutely. Just like I should be fired if I fail to do my job and someone suffers dire consequences due to my failure.

    Do I think the nurse should be criminally prosecuted for murder? No!!

  100. no rest for the weary June 21, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

    “We want to believe that the world is understandable and controllable and unthreatening, that if we follow the rules, we’ll be okay. So, when this kind of thing happens to other people, we need to put them in a different category from us.”

    “We don’t want to resemble them, and the fact that we might is too terrifying to deal with. So, they have to be monsters.”

    Exactly. Once we are willing to acknowledge that we are not separate from, or in a different category than, people who do things we don’t like or aren’t comfortable with, that’s when compassion can begin. And compassion is freedom, because you begin to understand that although there can be tragic strategies and tragic outcomes, we are all just doing the best we can to meet our own needs with the consciousness we’ve got.

  101. E June 21, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    So tragic. And I’m so confused at the charges. Even for those who believe there should be charges….he’s charged with first degree and no bail?

    I will say that my kids haven’t been in any form of carseat for about 16 years, but I’ve never stumbled on some of SOA’s suggestions, but some of them sound reasonable (partcularly putting something important in the back seat).

    The idea of this happening, even now when it’s literally impossible for me to experience, leaves me with a terrible nervous awful feeling.

  102. E June 21, 2014 at 10:26 pm #

    I realize I hadn’t refreshed this page so missed the posts about there possibly being more to the story.

    I had not signed the petition because the only thing I knew was the little bits that had been printed/reprinted. Not that I ever expected it to turn sinister, but perhaps some patience makes sense when you aren’t directly involved. That’s the only takeaway from this I have…the rest is just terribly terribly tragic to think about.

  103. E June 21, 2014 at 10:29 pm #

    I do have a question (just curious since I’m out of the car seat phase and so much has changed). At what age are kids turned to face forward?

  104. anonymous mom June 21, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

    The AAP now recommends keeping a child rear-facing until they they reach the weight limit for the car seat. The minimum recommendation for forward-facing is 1 year and 20 pounds. One of the new things for parents to brag about is how long they keep their kid rear-facing. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s people out there with their 4yos rear-facing (and I’m equally sure they all mention it at least once a week on Facebook).

    I honestly don’t know how people’s kids fit rear-facing until even 2, but I’ve always had big kids and small cars. My kids start getting cramped and fussy rear-facing around 9-10 months and it’s a struggle keeping them backwards for even a full year. Plus, I have three kids across the back of a compact car. I guarantee you that any kid rear-facing at 2 would be kicking his nearest sibling in the head, repeatedly.

    If it works for somebody, that’s great, but I find driving with fussy, screaming, fighting kids more of a safety issue than turning their seats forward at 1.

  105. Warren June 21, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

    Noone wishes your kids get anything. What I am saying is that you will one day get judgemental about someone, and that someone will not just take it. And let’s face it, from your comments in here, nobody would want your help because it comes with a price.

    Now to Jim…………..
    Prison as punishment………..does not work. No prison sentence could ever compare to the devastation a parent in this situation experiences.
    Prison as a deterent………….does not work. To deter someone from commiting the offense, that person must be aware of what he/she is doing. If this guy was aware of it, he would not have forgot the child.
    Parents that go to prison for things like this are in there for one of two reasons, or both.
    1. DA making a name for themself.
    2. Satisfy the publics bloodlust for revenge.

  106. SKL June 21, 2014 at 11:13 pm #

    To answer the rear facing question, I believe most states now require rear facing until 1yo and recommend it until at least 2yo (unless they get too big for a rear-facing seat). There are some people who will rear face as long as they possibly can. I recall seeing some internet post where there was a whole series of photos of happy kids rear-facing, and they went all the way up to 6yo if I recall correctly.

    There is some debate as to whether it’s actually safer after a certain age, but most people won’t listen to that. 😉 The truth is that there is no position that is “always” safer for a child. And once they are buckled into some sort of modern-day restraint, and being driven at a legal speed by a licensed driver who is not drunk or extremely foolish, the risks are pretty low regardless.

  107. SKL June 21, 2014 at 11:22 pm #

    My kids rear-faced until 2.5 and they didn’t care a bit. It’s really not a big deal; parents should just make the decision that they are comfortable with and let other parents do the same.

    But I know what you mean about those people on facebook. The other day this lady brought up car seats regarding her nearly 8yo kid. She said she was polling what we all do, but in reality she just wanted to crow about how her kid is still in a baby seat though other local kids are out of boosters (local law requires them to age 6). First she says she worries about her kid being teased. Then she says (for the Nth time):

    “Everyone who knows me knows that my greatest concern is my child’s safety. I don’t care what anyone else thinks, my child is going to be in a five-point harness until he can’t fit in one any more.”

    And then half of the commenters “right on! Safety first! I’d rather have an unpopular child than a dead one! You’re a great mom! Preach it!” Bla bla bla BARF.

  108. anonymous mom June 21, 2014 at 11:40 pm #

    I just have trouble believing that some of these 3-5 year olds I’ve seen pictures of rear-facing are within the weight and height limits. Like I said, I have BIG babies (they tend to be very tall and very, very fat until about 16-18 months, and then start slowing down to more normal growth rates), and two of my three were barely within the weight limits for their car seats at 1, as they were around 32 pounds. But keeping a kid in a rear-facing car seat past the recommended size limits seems silly.

    In our state you have to be 8 or 4’9″ to be out of a booster, whichever comes first. I think that’s a bit excessive, but then some of my fondest childhood memories involve being crammed in with two or three other kids into the rear-facing third seat of a station wagon.

  109. SOA June 21, 2014 at 11:51 pm #

    So if a nurse made a medication mistake that killed your child you would want her fired? Then at least can you say that if a parent makes the mistake of leaving the kid to die in the car from heat, that they should have their other kids taken from them? Because being a parent was their “job”. And they made a huge error with it that caused a death. Same thing.

    When my boys were little the recommendation was rear facing to 20 pounds and 1 year old at least. I did follow that recommendation. I bought the extra large car seats that hold bigger kids but they were freaking huge and barely fit in my sedan and did not fit in my compact. You had to have the front seats way pushed up to give them room to have the proper recline on them. It stunk. So I did turn them around once they hit the 20 pounds and one year for that reason.

    Now the recommendation is 2 if you can do it. So now I would have probably suffered 2 years of rear facing.

    After that though I think it is over kill. If you want to do it great but I don’t think it is worth it or necessary. Here boosters are almost required till middle school. Mine switched out of high back boosters at 5 to backless boosters. We got out of 5 point harness I wanna say around 4? Not sure exactly. One son sized out of it several months before the other son. I kept them in 5 point until they were too big for it.

    I agree with the poster that said that if the kids squall and screech rear facing than it probably is better to move them forward as long as they are 20 pounds 1 year at least. I would not do it earlier than that because of their necks something about severe whiplash killing them instantly or something like that.

    Kids squalling in the car is a huge thing though. If has almost made me drive off the road multiple times. My son will start screeching at the top of his lungs because a bug is in the car (he is scared of bugs like a phobia) and I jump which jerks the steering wheel and almost causes a wreck. Or if they fuss for long periods of time it can cause stress which can effect your driving. So that is more of a danger of wrecking that way than having them rear facing. Mine do well with a DVD player in the car. If you can figure out how to rig it up for a rear facing seat that might keep them happier to be facing backward.

  110. Nicole 2 June 21, 2014 at 11:56 pm #

    @Anonymous Mom We have many seats with 40-50 lb weight limits with height limits that go to 40″ and higher (torso height is more important, and we have shells that accommodate up to 28″ from butt to head) that do accommodate most kids until 3-4. It’s actually pretty hard to find a convertible seat a child will outgrow before 2. 40 lbs is the 95th percentile for a child who just turned 3. A few years ago there weren’t as many with high limits, but now? There are a ton.

    I’m very pro free range. I’m also very pro car seat safety. I believe in preparing for actual risks, not hypothetical. In 2011 car crashes killed over 1,300 kids under 16, therefore I believe in making minor adjustments to how we do things (such as rear facing until at least 2, using a belt positioning booster until the seat belt fits properly, putting kids on school buses when possible, having big kids always wear a lap/shoulder belt properly, etc). Very small changes in how we do things can save many children from serious injury and death, and these are actual deaths and injuries, not hypothetical stranger danger.

    I also don’t think it was primarily airbags that caused the apparent increase in deaths, I think it’s more likely that it was power windows and air conditioning. Air conditioning allows us to ride in closed up cars- closed up cars are solar ovens on hot days. Before people had to go into the back seat to roll up or close a window, and if they did would see the child. If they didn’t roll up the windows, the child had better ventilation and was heard better. We also have more sound proofing going into cars, so it’s harder for a passerby to hear a crying child. I think these likely contribute to it much more than just putting kids in the back seat.

  111. Nicole 2 June 22, 2014 at 12:18 am #

    Also, if I had a child who met the minimums to forward face, and was screaming in the vehicle rear facing but stopped when forward facing, I would forward face that child. Same for car sickness. I’m not militant about it, there certainly is a militant element of the car seat community (mostly noobs who have never worked in the ‘real world’).

    Fortunately, in my experience most kids do decent rear facing both behavior wise and motion sickness wise. Lots of times the issues can be solved by moving the seat more upright or switching from the infant seat to the convertible seat. Other times forward facing is the only thing that works. A forward facing child with a driver who is not distracted, in my estimation, should be safer than a rear facing child with a distracted driver.

  112. Donna June 22, 2014 at 12:23 am #

    SOA – Where did I say that I would demand that the nurse be fired? I’ve actually had a medication overdose following surgery that landed me in the cardiac care unit and did not demand that anybody be fired (I did demand that I not be billed for my time in the cardiac care unit).

    However, if I were her employer, I would probably fire her. Just like I wouldn’t be surprised if my boss (when I had one) fired me if a client went to prison for life because I forgot to do something important. It has nothing to do with not expecting mistakes and more to do with the liability and reputation of the employer.

    But being a parent is not a “job.” And I detest all those stupid Facebook posts proclaiming it one. You can’t equate an employer reacting in a way to protect its liability and reputation to the right to parent your own children.

  113. Donna June 22, 2014 at 12:40 am #

    Well, my kid didn’t come close to meeting the minimums – in age or weight – and still moved forward because she was screaming non-stop and I was done with it. Heck, I don’t think my kid hit 20 pounds until she was 2 or 3. She’ll be 9 in a few months, and she’s still only about 45.

    I always find the carseat obsession funny. The Freakanomics guys proved several years ago that there is no safety difference between a carseat and a regular seatbelt after age 2. This is definitely one of those things were people are have been indoctrinated to believe something that is not true and will defend it with their life despite being wrong. I just roll my eyes and continue doing what I want to do.

    My daughter was 6 when we moved to A. Samoa. Carseats are only required until age 4 so we didn’t have one. She rode blissfully without a car seat for almost 2 years. When we decided to come back home, where the age is 8, she pitched a total fit about having to use a booster seat for her last couple months of 7. I expected her to dump the thing on her 8th birthday, but she stayed in it for 7 more months of her own choice because she could see better. Kids.

  114. Nicole 2 June 22, 2014 at 12:49 am #

    The freaknomics guy talked fast and made a video. He didn’t prove anything. He did not publish his results. You don’t do a study that counters decades worth of research and not publish your results UNLESS your results won’t hold up to the muster of peer review.

    There are an abundance of studies, academic studies, in multiple countries, showing that proper use of child restraints saves lives. They just don’t come with flashy youtube videos.

  115. E June 22, 2014 at 1:19 am #

    Thanks for the info on car seats. I seem to recall the 20lbs/1year rear facing thing for when my kids were babies.

    What I’ve learned…I’m glad FB and the internet wasn’t around when I had little kids. We all had car seats for our kids, but it was absolutely never the topic of conversation or comparison.

  116. Donna June 22, 2014 at 7:05 am #

    Nicole – Didn’t publish the results? Funny since I read about it in a BOOK. I’ve never seen the youtube video, but I’ll look for it.

    But they weren’t looking for peer review. They are statisticians who performed actual crash dummy tests – as opposed to just looking at car wreck statistics which is how most of the studies are generated – as part of research for a book about a lot of different things. But they also have no vested interest in any of this, unlike studies that are performed and conducted biased parties. Yes, they sold books, but their book sales weren’t based on this one chapter. I don’t even recall the study being hyped to sell the book.

    Further, their takeaway was never that we should rely only on the seatbelt, but that safety of children can be improved and made cheaper by cutting out the middle man. Their argument was basically that things built with a car are better than things made by 3rd parties that are then installed aftermarket by lay people (parents) in many different cars all with different seat designs, particularly considering the vast majority of people install their carseat incorrectly. They advocated INCREASING safety (and economy) by getting rid of carseats over 2 in favor of mechanisms designed into the vehicle (built in booster seats and adjustable seatbelts are the two I remember) not ditching caring about child safety all together.

    But, again, I don’t expect anyone to change their mind. Most people have bought the carseat industry’s stance hook, line and sinker.

  117. BL June 22, 2014 at 7:36 am #

    “You don’t do a study that counters decades worth of research and not publish your results UNLESS your results won’t hold up to the muster of peer review.”

    Ah, yes. The holy dogma of ‘peer review’.

    Anyone who thinks ‘peer review’ is some kind of gold standard needs to read this:


    Of course, anyone who’s spent much time with academics or gubmint ‘researchers’ isn’t at all surprised.

  118. anonymous mom June 22, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    The issue I mostly have with the new carseat laws and recommendations is that they really make it extremely difficult for families to have smaller cars. We are currently looking into buying our first car with three rows of seats, after ten years of parenting. For the last 3 years, we’ve had three kids across the back of a station wagon and then a compact SUV. Right now we’ve got one in a car seat, one in a booster, and one who just needs a seat belt, and it’s not too bad. But for a while we had two in car seats and one in a booster, and that was tight. We found exactly one brand of carseat (what was then the Sunshine Radian–I think the company was either bought out or renamed and now the same carseat is called something else) that would fit two in a row plus a booster. But the design is such that, when rear-facing, it takes up a LOT of horizontal space, so in order to fit it the passenger seat had to be moved as far forward as possible (which was uncomfortable for me, at 5’8″, and completely impossible for my 6’5″ husband, to sit in).

    I’m just not convinced that people needing to buy larger cars (which are both worse for the environment, in many cases, as well as capable of doing more damage to other cars in an accident) in order to fit the requisite child seats is a great trade-off, in terms of public health and safety. It shouldn’t be so hard to fit a family of five into a compact car (and one on the larger side, at that) that is supposed to seat five.

  119. anonymous mom June 22, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    I don’t think the issue is that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with peer-reviewed research in and of itself. It’s that much large-scale research being done today, even at universities, is largely funded by private industry, which of course has a stake in the results. My husband is a research scientist, and his work for the last 8 years or so has mostly been in the field of driving safety research, mostly around the use of phones and touch screens in cars.

    All of their research is funded either by (or by both) auto companies or government agencies. And both have their own vested interests in things they want to see happen or not happen, particularly the auto companies. It’s not like there is any overt or explicit pressure to produce results that are favorable for the auto companies, but ultimately the auto companies are out to make money. I’m assuming a lot of research into the safety of car seats is similarly funded (by auto makers, car seat manufacturers, and government agencies) and there are going to be ways conclusions are shaped and presented that best suit the interests of the body funding the research. At the very least, it’s hard for me not to consider that new car seat laws and regulations have benefited both car makers (who now have families buying far larger cars than they did in the past, even while having fewer children) and car seat manufacturers.

  120. SKL June 22, 2014 at 10:29 am #

    Just an FYI about space and boosters. Just this past month I found some inflatable boosters at Walmart that are much narrower than any I’ve ever seen before. They don’t have the arm rests. I bought them because I am looking to hire random strangers (OMG) to drive my kids short distances between summer camps this year, and the law requires some sort of booster until age 8.

    According to the labeling, they meet all legal requirements bla bla bla. Plus they are a lot easier to move around than my kids’ regular high-back boosters.

    My kids do like their high-back boosters that I bought when they were 4. They like the fact that they can fall asleep sitting up. (Spoiled brats.) When I mentioned that they won’t need them after turning 8, they protested, LOL.

    I have done a lot of research on car safety because I am a rebel when it comes to laws and goody-goody sanctomoms telling me this is what I need to do. I am cool with boosters, and they are not horribly expensive. I just wish it was easier for every parent to get objective info without the overblown guilt/fear factor. It took me years and years to get the plain facts of why this or that is considered better. “Because don’t you care about your child” is not an answer.

  121. SOA June 22, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    I agree 100% anonymous mom. I often roll my eyes when as soon as someone has a kid they think they have to buy a giant SUV or van. You don’t. Not for one kid at least. I managed my twins in a sedan their entire childhood so far. It was not easy. But I handled it. We could not even fit the infant seats in our compact. Not unless you wanted the steering wheel in your chest which is definitely not safe for the driver.

    The days of car pooling kids are gone. It is too much trouble to move car seats in and out of cars for that and to do that you have to have a GIANT van to fit your kids plus other kids. We can haul one other kid to squeeze in the middle and that is it and if they stick their fingers in between the seats it is going to end up some squished fingers and puts them almost hanging out the door on the side. I drive an Impala. But I prefer sedans and will not go bigger.

    We finally realized when my mom takes the kids it is easier to switch cars than switch out the car seats. At least up until they got backless boosters. So she just took my car and we did not have to change car seats.

  122. Beth June 22, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    I often roll my eyes when anyone thinks that the type of vehicle I choose to buy is their business.

  123. Donna June 22, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    anon mom – Exactly. Which is why I actually paid attention to the tests run by the Freakanomics guys. They have nothing to gain either way. They don’t get funding from a car company. They don’t get funding from a carseat company. They don’t get funding from anyone. Maybe the publisher if they got an advance. They’re just a couple of economists (maybe only one is an economist and one a writer) who write books.

    I also found it interesting that no test dummy place would let them run the tests originally (ties to the industry). The one who finally agreed would only do so after they contracted to replace the test dummies that were to certain to be destroyed in the seatbelt tests. No dummies had to be replaced and even the testing site people were astounded by the results.

    But what is most interesting is the absolute refusal to even consider their findings by the carseat brigade. People are so indoctrinated by the carseat manufacturing lobby that there is no willingness to even have an open mind that there may be better, safer and simpler options out there.

  124. SKL June 22, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    Google BubbleBum Inflatable Car Booster Seat for a skinny (backless) seat that supposedly meets the minimum requirements for primary school kids.

    I’m pretty sure I didn’t pay full price. But again, I was focusing on convenience and might have paid a little extra for it.

  125. lollipoplover June 22, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    @Beth- I also roll my eyes at those who heap judgement
    on personal family choices in transportation and work.
    It is estimated that 43% of American children live at or below the poverty level. How incredibly ignorant to judge working parents trying to feed their families or care what others drive, if they even have a car.

    This blog and the educated opinions of so many commenters would be more enjoyable without the Sanctomommy opinion that what works for your family means its best for all families. N=1.

  126. JKH June 22, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    I live in the Atlanta Metro and the response to this tragedy has been beyond disgusting. (Want to lose faith in humanity? Read the comment section of news posted on facebook).

    I don’t know what the answer is, truly. I agree there is nothing anyone could do to this man that could be worse than living with the guilt. And I doubt there is any vile thing a person could say (though they are trying…) that he hasn’t said to himself.

    My only real problem with the presentation of the story in our local media is how they have repeatedly reported he was ‘uncooperative’ with police, was he? Or was he completely distraught? Sad sad sad.

  127. Nicole 2 June 22, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    His study was the equivalent of what Dr. Oz did. What we base our recommendations on are, mostly, epidemiological studies that look at injury patterns, since crash tests are only of limited value. A couple years ago a big study came out, comparing backless to high back boosters. Prior to it the same people did a smaller study showing high back boosters to provide superior protection, so we went with recommending them over backless. This study, which was much larger, didn’t find a notable difference between the two. So now we recommend people us highback boosters if their child needs the extra support to sit properly (such as a place to lean when they fall asleep) but otherwise both are fine. This was reiterated with the NHTSA came out saying that side curtain airbags provide good protection to older children.

    Peer review is essential. Trust me, Levitt has published in peer reviewed journals, he would have published had he been able to. He works at a prestigious research oriented university, he isn’t anti peer review. Meanwhile, we have dozens upon dozens of studies looking at injury patterns and finding that child restraints prevent injury and save lives. Studies published in peer reviewed journals. Studies that have influenced recommendations across the planet. These studies come at the issue from all directions, mostly using real world data.

  128. Rachel @ Wife, Then Mama June 22, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

    I recently went to a car seat clinic because they were selling $10 car seats, and my mom is moving here in a few weeks and it will make life SO much easier if she has car seats in her car. Plus I started driving a really old car and I wanted to know if I was using the metal clasps right (I wasn’t). The lady asked me when I planned to forward face my one year old. I said I don’t know, maybe like 2. She asked me why and I said cause I thought that was the new recommendation. She had the nerve to say to me “Well, that is the minimum recommendation. Do you love your kids the minimum, or more?”. I thought it was a stupid question, so I said “Well, it kind of depends on the day…”

    How appalled would she be to know that I actually uninstalled his car seat and forward faced it in my mom’s car a few days later? Yes, I do believe rear facing is best. However, my mom has a Fiat 500, and with him rear facing, the passenger seat is unusable for all but the shortest of people (I am 5’2″ and my knees were literally touching the dashboard when he was rear faced.

    As far as this story, if the father truly did have a horrifying memory lapse, I think imprisoning him is wrong. Not only is it legally questionable in my opinion, but it hurts everyone involved. He is locked away for something that devastated him. His wife is left without a husband. If he has any children, they are left without a father, which statistically leaves them more likely to live in poverty, and become involved in illegal and/or dangerous behaviors. And the taxpayer have to pay to house a completely non-dangerous person for the next however many years. Even when he gets out, he will have a HORRIBLE time finding a job, since he will be a convicted felon for the murder of a child.

  129. Becky June 22, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    ^same thing also happened in 2007. no charges filed. why is HE in trouble?

  130. Becky June 22, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

    @rachel @ wife, then mama: “I thought it was a stupid question, so I said “Well, it kind of depends on the day…”” you just won everything right there. take that, nosy busybodies! lol!

  131. hineata June 22, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

    Oh, that poor man! It makes me sick just thinking about it. No different from people backing over their kids in driveways, or losing them momentarily and having them drown. Just horrific, unimaginable pain….

    I agree too with the comment about SAHMs being as likely to forget their kids….I know I’ve forgotten mine at times. Just, as stated, luckily the blocks of time aren’t as long.

    Prosecuting this bloke will add nothing to the world….

  132. CrazyCatLady June 22, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

    Based on the update…it did occur to me at some point that leaving the child in the car would be a sick way to get back at a spouse who was threatening to leave, or to end a marriage without child support, to cover up child abuse…or any number of other things.

    That said…I could totally have seen myself leaving a sleeping infant in a car. I remember stopping at the green lights waiting for them to turn red so I could go, not long after the birth of my last child.

  133. pentamom June 22, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    “Based on the update…it did occur to me at some point that leaving the child in the car would be a sick way to get back at a spouse who was threatening to leave, or to end a marriage without child support, to cover up child abuse…or any number of other things. ”

    And this sort of thing has happened before. In my city, a guy when to death row about 15 years ago for burning down his house with his 2 year old in it because he didn’t want to pay child support. There seems to be something to the idea of getting rid of inconvenient non-custodial kids by creating “accidents.”

    That said, the updated story said a lot of nothing. There might be something there, that can’t be more clearly stated at this point because it’s still being investigated. Or, the police may simply be hinting around to try to create the impression that there’s something there, to cool down the outrage, when there really isn’t anything there. At this point, I’m not favoring either possibility, I’ll just wait and see.

  134. pentamom June 22, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

    “Let’s not give people a scot free way of getting away with disposing of a child and making it look like an accident.”

    By that logic, every accidental death should be prosecuted as murder. More sensibly, what they should do, is what they do with any accidental death — investigate the circumstances, and if the “accident” story doesn’t add up, follow up and file the appropriate charges. If it WAS an accident, treat it like an accident.

    The tactic of “we should treat every accident like a crime so people don’t try to fake accidents” is illogical, unjust, inhumane, and most of all, unnecessary, since these situations get investigated.

  135. DirtyHooker June 22, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    I am a SAHM. My husband works outside the home. When our daughter was a bit younger, he, about 3 or 4 times, forgot to buckle her into the car seat. She’d been sleeping in her bucket car seat next to us, and he forgot to buckle her in when we put her in the car. She was a newborn, and we were exhausted.

    I don’t see how we could both quit our jobs to make sure she is safe at all times unless we’re OK with living in a cardboard box on the side of the road.

    I have never made that particular mistake, but I have made others that could have resulted in tragedy if my luck had been different. I’m not overwhelmed by the push to make more money. But I still have other thoughts that occupy me and fatigue that sometimes sets in.

  136. SOA June 22, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

    The thing is I have heard people argue that it is wrong and mean to even investigate and question the parent when this happens. Which while if it was a horrible accident might be hard on the parent, it probably still needs to be done to make sure there was no foul play.

  137. no rest for the weary June 23, 2014 at 12:04 am #

    Investigation is different than charging someone with a criminal act.

    In the Washington Post article that questions whether, once investigated, if it is found that a truly devastated parent who actually DID have a lapse of brain / memory function that led to the death of their child is NOT at all guilty of intentional “foul play,” then WHY the heck proceed with a criminal case?

    I agree, if this dude actually faked this “oops I forgot the kid was in the car” death (which, I’m pretty sure, is fairly easy to discern and differs greatly from when the parent truly forgot), then by all means, prosecute him.

    No one is suggesting that someone who intentionally kills anyone should not face some kind of justice.

    The key word is INTENTION. What the WP article discovers is that in cases where there is absolutely no intent on the part of the forgetful parent, sometimes the state prosecutes, and sometimes they don’t. And when they prosecute, it’s beyond wasteful and devastating.

  138. anonymous mom June 23, 2014 at 8:00 am #

    I don’t think an investigation is a problem: it’s this practice of charging first and then investigating that bothers me. The norm seems to be moving from, when there is an accident involving a child, doing an investigation and then charging if the findings warrant it to immediately overcharging the parent or caregiver and then investigating to see if there’s any actual grounds for those charges. It seems like a rather dangerous trend that goes against the basic idea that people should be presumed innocent.

  139. E June 23, 2014 at 8:16 am #

    @anon mom, I know we probably don’t have enough info yet (I guess that’s obvious no matter what really happened), but the article I read about his arrest said it came 5 hours later, after they’d looked at his workplace.

  140. Warren June 23, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    5 hours is just long enough for the police to have talked to the DA. Allowing the DA to come to the realization that he/she has a high profile case in which they can make a name for themself.

  141. E June 23, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    @Warren…perhaps. Here’s the article from the ajc.com that says they searched his office before charging him.


  142. Dark Space June 23, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    I generally agree with you, but not this time. If we presume that this guy made a horrific mistake, then yes, he immediately started his own life sentence the moment he discovered his dead kid. Further, punishing him will not prevent another parent from doing the same thing one day, nor will it teach him a lesson.

    But… that isn’t the point. He killed a human and he needs to be punished by society. Not rehabilitated, but punished – and that is what we have manslaughter charges for. Clearly the authorities in this case know something we don’t to charge him with the more serious felony murder charge, but they’ll downgrade that if appropriate or a jury will set him free if they’re wrong. His lack of situational awareness, in my mind, is no different than if he left his loaded pistol out and forgot about it resulting in a tragic accidental toddler death.

    I have always been very much for putting our one child who is now 12 into situations where she can fail and learn or exceed expectations, but I’ve never forgotten her and certainly never put her in a life or death situation because I was tired or distracted.

  143. Warren June 23, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    Prison as punishment does nothing more than breed better criminals. Prison as punishment only teaches them not to get caught. It does not teach them they did anything wrong.

  144. Donna June 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

    “He killed a human and he needs to be punished by society.”

    So, in your mind society should want to punish EVERYONE who accidentally kills someone?

    Which begs the question, do you think they need to be punished if they commit the exact same act and fortuitously nobody dies? Say this guy still accidentally leaves his child in the exact same car, in the exact same parking lot for the exact same period of time, but does so in February instead of June and the baby is fine, albeit hungry and upset, when discovered.

    That is 100% not the society I want. I don’t want a society that punishes based on coincidence and happenstance, rather than actions and intent.

  145. anonymous mom June 23, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    Dark Space, manslaughter is not applied any time a person dies due to the actions of another person. Those actions still have to have been criminal in some sense (whether intentionally or recklessly).

    If I make dinner and accidentally failed to cook the meat long enough and one of my dinner guests gets food poisoning and died, do I deserve a prison sentence as punishment?

  146. Dark Space June 23, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    No Donna, that’s absurd and I wouldn’t want to live in the society you describe either. But this guy didn’t put his kid in a high chair and turn around for a second while the kid crawled out and crushed their head into the floor – that would be considered an accident – a horrible, horrible accident that does not deserve punishment to be meted out by society. This guy, at best, put his kid in a situation that has an extremely high probability of death – and that is negligent, it is criminal, and it deserves punishment.

    The kid didn’t drown in the toilet bowl without a lock (which, yes, I think locks on toilet bowls are silly). He left his kid locked up in an oven on full heat. It was NOT February.

    To answer your question regarding whether he should be punished if all the circumstances were the same but the child survived – YES, absolutely he should be punished for putting his kid in a situation that has an extremely high probability to cause death or permanent injury, even if by some unexplained miracle the kid survived it.

    Would you feel the same if this guy had sat his kid on the edge of the woodchipper and the kid accidentally fell in? What if the guy was driving down 285 and ran over a motorcyclist because he was too distracted by whatever was distracting him – no punishment? What if it were the same situation but it was your kid and he was your neighbor and was supposed to drop the kid off at daycare?

    America overcriminalizes victimless crimes. Over 40,000 new useless laws were passed last year in this country. I’m a libertarian, I get it. But this is a gross act of negligence that resulted in the loss of life.

  147. Dark Space June 23, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    anonymous mom-

    You probably would not be charged with manslaughter in the dinner case you describet, but if you cooked their dinner in a dish that you used earlier that day to whip up a batch of cyanide, and then absentmindedly used the same dish to make dinner… well, yes, that would (at best) be criminally negligent manslaughter. A simple accident is clearly different than putting another human in a situation that has an extremely high probability of harming or killing them.

  148. Donna June 23, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    “Would you feel the same if this guy had sat his kid on the edge of the woodchipper and the kid accidentally fell in?”

    That is a completely different situation. That is an INTENTIONAL act. The person intentionally put the child on the edge of an object that would kill or seriously injure him if he fell in. That act was wrong whether the child falls in or not.

    Unless you want to say that merely putting a child in a car is dangerous, this guy didn’t intentionally do anything dangerous (assuming the facts as we knew them at first which do appear to be changing). He didn’t mean to leave his child in the car for 5 seconds, let alone 5 hours.

    “What if the guy was driving down 285 and ran over a motorcyclist because he was too distracted by whatever was distracting him – no punishment?”

    Depends on what the distraction was. Him intentionally doing something that is not conducive to attentive driving – texting, shaving, reading, watching youtude videos on his phone – punishment. Most every other distraction, no punishment beyond a ticket for failing to attend to the roadway if you must.

    “What if it were the same situation but it was your kid and he was your neighbor and was supposed to drop the kid off at daycare?”

    Still no punishment if he legitimately simply forgot he had the child. I’m not saying that I would still have warm relations with said neighbor, but I don’t see where he should go to prison.

    You’ll note that the key determination in my view is “did the person KNOWINGLY commit some act and that act led to a death.” Is it something he made a point of doing? Or was it something inadvertent that happened because we aren’t a perfect species?

  149. no rest for the weary June 23, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    “This guy, at best, put his kid in a situation that has an extremely high probability of death – and that is negligent, it is criminal, and it deserves punishment.”

    Yes, he put his kid in the CAR, period.

    All of us do this nearly EVERY DAY.

    Forgetting to take your kid OUT of the car is not the same as sitting them on the edge of a wood-chipper. A car is a tool that so many of us use so often that it is easy to forget there are hazards involved. Hazards on the road, mostly, but yes, hazards of not coming out of the car when it’s been parked. There are also hazards in the parking lots if you do, in fact, leave the car after it’s parked.

    CARS ARE DANGEROUS. But they are far more dangerous in motion than when parked, but we don’t scream “child endangerment” every time someone transports their kid in a car, we just do it when there is an accident. Well here’s a news flash: THERE WILL BE ACCIDENTS WITH CARS. They are tremendously heavy, they go fast, and they are solar ovens on a sunny, warm day.

    Still, we use them, in many cases, nearly constantly. It’s to be expected that occasionally, there will be accidents. It’s the price we pay for using this tool. Every accident can’t be avoided, no matter how many bells and whistles and safety devices are installed in the things, and no matter how hysterically we try to control people’s activities and choices through laws. Some laws DO save lives (limits on blood alcohol levels, for example). Some DON’T (laws against leaving any child in a car at any time under any circumstances — the number of “forgotten” slow-cooked toddlers has remained steady or increased slightly since these laws went into effect).

    So making it illegal to leave your kid inside a car is nonsense. It doesn’t protect kids against being forgotten anyway, and makes other people criminals for no reason.

  150. Andy June 23, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

    “What if it were the same situation but it was your kid and he was your neighbor and was supposed to drop the kid off at daycare?”

    I would hate him for the rest of my life. I would not want to be in the same room with him. None of it means that he should go to prison for years because of that.

    There is a reason why we do not let victims and their families run justice system – desire for vengeance and justice are not the same thing.

  151. Rachel @ Wife, Then Mama June 24, 2014 at 12:11 am #

    @Dark Space – I think that (assuming he didn’t do something horrible and try to cover it up) this man is already being punished with natural consequences. Punishment is not to make someone miserable, it is to teach them that something is a wrong behavior so they don’t do it again. I hardly think that prison will make him any more remorseful for the devastating death of his child.

    Suppose you had a teenage daughter and you told her she couldn’t go to a party, but she sneaked (snuck?) out of the house and went anyway. While at that party she was raped, and ended up with an incurable STD. Would you still ground her because she disobeyed, or just know that the consequences of her actions were far greater than any punishment you could give her? I mean its not 100% the same scenario, because the teenage girl made a conscious decision to do something wrong, while this man (again, if innocent) had no idea he did something wrong until he saw the result of his actions, but its pretty similar.

    Punishing someone is only necessary if the natural consequences of their actions are not greater than the alternative punishment. If he had left his kid in the car intentionally for a few hours on a hot day with the windows rolled up, and somehow, miraculously the child was fine, THEN I could understand punishing him. He would have done something stupid, and there was no natural consequence, despite the fact that he did something that could have easily killed someone.

  152. E June 24, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    Right — there are tragic mistakes…and there is willful carelessness.

    This story:

    The man was taking care of a 2 year old, and left him unattended (and without flotation device) at a pool. The child nearly drowned. Anyone that leaves a toddler unattended poolside is not making a forgetful mistake, they are taking a huge, known risk.

  153. E June 24, 2014 at 8:39 am #

    @Rachel…one thing (and maybe I misunderstood your post)…if a person knowingly left a kid in a closed car in 90 degree weather for any length of time, it shouldn’t matter what the child’s health outcome was. To me, that’s cruel and dangerous and is putting the child’s health at risk…willfully.

    Last Sept we were driving thru the central CA agricultural valley and stopped so my husband could get a cold drink. It was very very hot and we’d been using the A/C. I stayed in the car but it was off. Before he even came back out, I was getting uncomfortable in the heat to the point that I opened the car door. We’re talking a few minutes.

    Anyone that willingly leaves a child restrained in a car, windows up on a hot day, does deserve legal scrutiny.

  154. anonymous mom June 24, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    If the family’s story is true, though, the father did NOT knowingly leave his kid in a hot car. He forgot the child was in there, and had had no intention of leaving him in a hot car at all. I mean, unless we are going to say that ever taking a child anywhere on a day when it’s hot is a negligent act, he didn’t (again, according to the family’s side of the story) do anything willfully dangerous.

  155. Warren June 24, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    You do realize that if this ever makes it to a jury, this man is screwed. A baby died and no matter what in this day and age I do not expect a jury to see past that.

    Like some even in here, they do not care, they just want their god given right to revenge, and get their pound of flesh.

    I am one of the first ones to support revenge. You know for the predator that willfully hurts kids. I enjoy thinking that the prison population may one day get ahold of the predator.

    Someone were to willfully hurt or kill someone close to me, it would be very difficult for people to keep me from getting at them.

    Revenge for a willfull act I can understand and support.

    Revenge for an accident…….no way no how.

  156. Rachel @ Wife Then Mama June 24, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    @E – You did misunderstand me. If he had done it intentionally he should be punished. Just like a drunk driver should be punished, because the likelihood of it having a profoundly negative impact on someone’s life is great, even if it didn’t occur.

    I know how hot cars can get. I used to go to work with my husband and go shopping, then read in the car until his shift was over (we shared a car so it was the only way I ever got out of the house). Within about 10 minutes of the car being shut it would become uncomfortably hot. Since I am capable of opening doors and windows it wasn’t a problem, but for a small child trapped in a 5 point harness with no way to roll down the windows, it would be hellish. Anyone intentionally leaving a child in this situation for longer than it takes to go in and pay for gas/return a library book/use the ATM, should certainly be in trouble for child endangerment.

  157. no rest for the weary June 24, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    Leave. The. Windows. DOWN.


    If you are intentionally leaving a child in a car on anything sunnier or warmer than a cool, overcast day, leave the windows down.

    We’ve become so paranoid that we have to lock the kids in the cars with the windows rolled up tight. Don’t do it.

  158. SOA June 25, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    Well what do you know a 12 year old invented something to stop the whole accidentally leaving the babies in the car. So there you go. http://www.wrcbtv.com/story/25861939/kids-invention-gets-worlds-attention

  159. Warren June 25, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    This thing is shiny, colourful and useless. It is no different than the teddy bear thing or any other practise. It will not save a single child.

    Secondly I am not going to have a tension device pulling on the interior of my vehicle, which is not meant to have tension applied to it constantly.

  160. SOA June 25, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    It was made by a 12 year old with colored duct tape and rubber bands. He gives you instructions on how to make it for under $10. He is not even trying to sell it.

    He won a young inventor contest with it. But way to put down a 12 year old. People are just so adamant about not doing something simple to prevent this and so yes, I will have zero sympathy for them if they mess up and kill their kids. Because they were so stubborn about doing even one small simple step to prevent it.

    would you feel sorry for me if I walked out in the street without looking both ways for cars and got hit by a car and died? Probably not. This is the same thing. Personal responsibility.

  161. Sarah June 25, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

    This guy is being held for good reason. It was obvious from the start and more obvious now that he was lying to authorities about the details of Cooper’s death. It is only responsible for them to hold him and charge him with the picture he presented by telling lies that confused the truth. There is a reason he is lying…until they figure out what that is he should remain behind bars for killing that child whether intentionally or on accident.

  162. Warren June 25, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Could you please start crossing the road without looking? Then we can find out if I feel bad or not.

  163. Celeste June 25, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    I wouldn’t sign any petition asking that murder charges be dropped without understanding the facts about the case. If this man murdered his child, then I don’t believe murder charges should be dropped. If it was an accident, perhaps they should. But encouraging people to sign this petition is premature at best.

  164. Rachel @ Wife, Then Mama June 25, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

    I am fairly certain that if it turns out that this man DID kill his child intentionally, or through abuse or intentional neglect, the “signatures” of even a million people on an internet petition will not get the charges dropped. On the other hand if it WAS a legitimate accident, and the powers that be see that there is a large amount of people that don’t feel it should be considered a crime, they might consider dropping it.

  165. Celeste June 26, 2014 at 12:53 am #

    So, are you suggesting it’s a good idea to sign preemptive petitions just in case the position stated in them turns out to be the correct one?

  166. Rachel @ Wife, Then Mama June 26, 2014 at 3:07 am #

    No, I am not suggesting it as something that people should intentionally do, I am just saying that it probably won’t cause any harm. I wouldn’t start one until I knew more, because I wouldn’t want to look stupid, but people signing it are not hurting anything. I actually shared the petition on Facebook, then when I looked into it a little further, I deleted the post, because I didn’t want to share something that wasn’t true, and made me look foolish if it was wrong.

  167. anonymous mom June 26, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    SOA: “People are just so adamant about not doing something simple to prevent this and so yes, I will have zero sympathy for them if they mess up and kill their kids. Because they were so stubborn about doing even one small simple step to prevent it.”

    Do you have one of these miracle devices (which I’m sure have no drawbacks which might make a person wary about using it)? If not, why not? Because you aren’t one of those selfish, evil working parents? But what if one day you had something unexpected come up? I suppose we should have ZERO sympathy for you if anything happened to your child because you forget them in the car, since you could have just bought or made this simple device and avoided it.

  168. GT June 26, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    “I agree this is a free range issue because it seems we expect parents to be absolutely perfect. Never forget anything, never let down your guard, never make mistakes. Parents are held up to impossible standards.”

    Making sure a helpless child doesn’t fry to death in a place you left them is an impossible standard now? How dare we judge someone for being stupid and irresponsible enough to let this happen. How could he have known his kid was in the car with him, or what would inevitable happen if thr kid was left behind? Everybody makes mistakes. Sometimes they result in 100% avoidable suffering and needless death, but, ya know, we’re all human, anybody could have made the same error. Right? God, I’m honestly afraid for the kids of every parent here who claimed they could have made the same mistake. Some people really are too stupid to breed.

  169. no rest for the weary June 26, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    I’ve made so many mistakes, and one of them nearly killed my child.

    She’s fine. Still haunts me, 8 years later.

    If she had died, I have no doubt my ex, a lawyer, would have done everything possible to punish me. Who knows if this would have involved court cases and law enforcement. All I know is that if that mistake HAD actually led to my daughter’s death, there would not be any good that would come from a protracted, organized “punishment,” since I would have been far less useful as a caregiver to my surviving child, and ultimately, the punishment would be absorbed most by him.

    We must always have the discipline to understand what it is that we want more of in our lives, and whether our strategies are actually working to bring us those things. Over and over again this site brings up the idea that “safety” is, tragically, what people claim to be after when they run interference between their kids and the world instead of allowing their kids to learn on their own a bit and build skills and resilience. In the end, sheltered kids are less safe, less adaptable, more vulnerable. Hovering is a tragic strategy that doesn’t get the hoverers more of what they want after all.

    “Throwing the book” at parents whose children die because they are accidentally backed over in the driveway, accidentally forgotten in the car, accidentally were able to access the pool, or accidentally got out of the house and ran into the street is not getting anyone what they claim to want: justice. What it gets them is terrible lack of justice.

    If there is intent to harm a child, then yes, the state can intervene, but I’d suggest restorative justice over penal justice any day, if people really want healing and closure and trust. But we’ve lost sight of what we actually value, and give in to our violent reactivity again and again.

    Try examining your own strategies when they come to you in anger or vengeance. Chances are they are taking you farther away from what you actually want.

  170. GT June 26, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    “accidentally backed over in the driveway, accidentally forgotten in the car, accidentally were able to access the pool, or accidentally got out of the house and ran into the street”

    One of these things is not like the others. And none of this has to do with sheltering. It’s basic caregiving. Actually, as it turns out, psychopathic murder, which I suspect is really the case nearly every time this occurs. They just happen to be able to prove it this time. It’s truly sad that you people can’t see when you are being manipulated into misplaced empathy.

  171. Daniel Dubois June 26, 2014 at 11:18 pm #

    “accidentally backed over in the driveway, accidentally forgotten in the car, accidentally were able to access the pool, or accidentally got out of the house and ran into the street
    One of these things is not like the others.

    Which one of those things is not like the others? I’m not being facetious; they all sound the same to me.

    psychopathic murder, which I suspect is really the case nearly every time this occurs. They just happen to be able to prove it this time.
    Whoa, wait, what? If I understand you correctly, you are suggesting 20-40 people every year murder their children by locking them in the car intentionally? And that these events are the doings of malicious psychopaths, not merely the absent-minded? Your suspicion fails the test of logic (and common sense). If people were doing this on purpose, the rate of incident would not have spiked along with the time that rear-facing backseat-placed car seats became a common practice. Maybe this particular case was a murder, that’s for courts/jury to decide, but the idea this pattern of hyperthermia is generally anything but a terrible tragedy is without merit, ludicrous on its face, and an insult to all those grieving parents.

  172. Betty June 27, 2014 at 11:11 pm #

    Why would you or anyone suggest an accidental death caused by the negligence of a parent ( forgetting their child) is a legitimate defense? It’s manslaughter! I can’t make sense of this at all! Every year parents lose rights to their children because they either couldn’t, wouldn’t or did not provide adequate care and protection for their children! Some may have forgotten to feed, clothe, and change diapers regularly or even watch after their child.. but their child did not die in their care! They still lost rights to them because they didn’t put that child’s needs & best interest ahead of everything else!
    If Justin along with the other parents who “accidentally” kill their children by forgetting about them aren’t responsible for their child’s safety and well being, who is? It’s a parents most important job to see to it that their child is taken care of and protected.. If an accident at the parents hands cost that child his life, then they’re responsible and should pay the consequences! It’s their job to remember! Oops doesn’t work as a defense! Forgetting about your child isn’t an option! And believe me, unless this man and others like him, have a medical condition to explain forgetting their child within a half a mile drive, then it’s safe to assume the child wasn’t a priority. And if there is a medical condition to explain this horrible tragedy, then he should have had his wife take the child to daycare! It’s that simple! Our children come first! And if we put them first, we won’t forget them! I wish you or someone would explain to me how you think this man not only forgot his child after feeding him breakfast moments earlier, but at no time throughout the day did he remember that he didn’t take the child inside to the on-site daycare? Apparently he was responsible for taking him to daycare, regularly, because the daycare was on-site! At not time, in 7 hours, did he think – I know I forgot something?

    Even if it is true that he forgot his son, that is not acceptable! And what kind of message is sending this man money, signing an online petition etc.. Sending to crazy people in this country? That they can forget their child in a hot car and not only will they walk free, they will gain support, and money!
    I’ll say it again, it’s not okay to forget about your child! It’s not ok to leave them in a car, run over them, starve them, leave them in dirty diapers causing severe rash, or any other act that a parent might say was due to their memory loss! It is your job to remember and if you have issues with memory, let your spouse take care of the baby! That is your job too.. Making tough decisions that might inconvenience your spouse and embarrass you for the safety of your child! There is NO excuse..
    Furthermore, I would love to understand why people are saying, this happens a lot! As if that makes it okay! It doesn’t! It means that more people should be in jail! It doesn’t mean you’re to look over this mans crime because it happens often! No one is so busy that they should forget their child! Remember why you work everyday.. Remember why you wake up every morning.. Remember why you breathe! Remember those things and you’ll never forget your child! Think of all the things these people could turn OFF or remove from their lives that would help them to remember their children! And then tell me it’s not their fault? Radio, cellphone.. Etc.. If this man had been chatting with his son in the car on the way to work, ( if this was an accident) this wouldn’t have happened! If he had placed the diaper bag on the passenger seat? Turned off the cellphone! Put his child first – this wouldn’t have happened! It is his fault! And I’m sorry, but heartbroken isn’t a legal consequence for breaking the law.. People get jail time for leaving their animal in the car! And had this been a pet, he wouldn’t have collected donations and petition- signatures! He certainly shouldn’t get donations and support after forgetting his child! That poor child’s organs slowly shut down until he passed! Tragic!

  173. Rachel @ Wife, Then Mama June 27, 2014 at 11:45 pm #

    @Betty – The reason we feel sympathy for this man (if he did do this accidentally, if its murder, I have no sympathy for him) is because I cannot IMAGINE a worse feeling than knowing that your precious child is dead because of something you inadvertently did.

    Put yourself in his shoes for a moment. Envision how horrifying it would be to walk out to your car after a day at work, open up the door and see your dead child sitting in the backseat. Now imagine that while dealing with this horrible tragedy and the guilt that goes along with it, you are imprisoned and kept away from your husband and other family. If you are convicted you will not only be in prison, but your family will be left to mourn without you, your other children will grow up without that sibling or a mother, your husband has to become a single father, while grieving the loss of not only his precious child, but his wife too.

    It is unfathomable to me that people can look at tragic accidents such as these and feel that the right thing to do to a family in this awful situation is rip it apart further. If this man killed his child on purpose, I don’t think the death penalty is to harsh for the monster.

    As far as all your “helpful hints”, they really are not so helpful. A diaper bag on the front seat is a great idea, I guess, assuming that you are not absent minded like me and tend to lock your purse in the car, only noticing later when you go to buy something that you don’t have it with you. I actually tend to put my purse and cell phone in the back seat next to the kids so I don’t forget them (because as a housewife, I very rarely leave the house without children, and have no set routine when I do leave, so I am highly unlikely to ever forget them). If you forgot the kid was in the car, you would probably forget the diaper bag was on the seat. He should have been talking to his child instead of listening to the radio? A few things: 1) 22 month old boys are very, very rarely speaking conversationally, 2) Children LOVE to listen to music, so the radio is hardly neglectful, 3) Do we even know that the radio was on?

    I think the difference between neglectful parents and parents who have tragic brain glitches is that the neglectful parents are making an ongoing, intentional, harmful choice. Brain glitch parents make a one second mistake that ruined their entire lives, jail or not.

  174. Chuck99 June 28, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    I think the important part of this issue is that we (as a society) really need to make some decisions about what an accident is. Obviously, leaving or ‘forgetting’ your child in a hot car can be deadly. However, there was a case not to long ago about that woman who left her son in a car on a moderate day, while she ran into the store. Wasn’t she arrested also? Is there really not a difference in those things, or do prosecutors and police just have no judgement anymore.

    This actually brought to my mind the case of Shannon Johnson, where it really was an accident. Her 13-month old son wanted to take a bath by himself, so she let him. After it had happened a number of times, he drowned. Because she went to look at Facebook while he was in the bath (apparently close enough to still hear him, from what the article said), she was condemned, and has since been sentenced to 10-years in prison.

    Did she make a mistake? Sure, in hindsight it’s easy to say she did. But am I the only one uncomfortable with a prosecutor reviewing any action I make and deciding, after the fact, that it wasn’t the best thing I could have done? For that matter, are there any of us who wouldn’t be found guilty of something using that standard?

    I don’t find much excuse for leaving a kid in a car (unless it’s done deliberately, under thought out conditions), but no bail and life in prison does seem a bit extreme. On the other hand, it seems like we really need to re-learn that there are things besides black and white, and sometimes parents have to be able to make those decisions, even if it turns out they were wrong.

  175. TRS June 28, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

    Recent reports – warrants show man searched info on children dying in hot cars before this happened. Seems like the ass hole wanted to kill his child and get away with it. Sooooo it is good we have a legal system to sort this out. For the sake of the kids. If he is not guilty then he is not guilty but needs to be charged and due process needs to prevail for the sake of the child.

  176. TRS June 28, 2014 at 6:33 pm #

    It was also discovered – he went out to his car for freaking lunch break. Hmmmmmm. Checking to see his child is dead? I am sorry but if this is the evidence he will be charged for murder and we will have to suffer the consequences by having every Tom, Dick, and Harry calling 911 when we leave a 15 yo in the care to get a gallon of milk.

  177. SkåneAmerican June 29, 2014 at 3:59 am #

    Obviously it’s a little beside the point now, but how do people think that the law should handle accidental deaths by unsecured firearms?

  178. E June 30, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    I know this is an old post but I really hope this prevents the site from endorsing petitions and fundraising for serious legal situations that we have no knowledge of beyond a few paragraphs in a newspaper.

    I’m all for communities getting behind causes, but it’s foolish to commit to something without more information.