Update July 14th: Kamilyn Hadley pleads guilty to one count class A misdemeanor negligent homicide, sentenced to 18 months probation. See the KSL Channel 5 website and the Ogden Standard-Examiner for details.
In a case provoking strong bipartisan reaction among Utahns, the mother of a five-month-old Clearfield boy who left him in a closed car on a hot day is being charged with negligent homicide. Local media stories posted July 3rd, 2008 by the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, and KSL Channel 5.
The boy's mother, thirty-one-year-old Kamilyn Hadley, was charged on Thursday July 3rd with negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor, in connection with the death of her son, Daniel Scott Hadley. Court records said the case was assigned to a 2nd District Court judge, but no hearings had been scheduled.
Hadley is expected to be issued a summons to appear in court. Davis County prosecutors have said they are working with her defense attorney to reach a resolution in the case. Negligent homicide carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail. If Hadley pleads guilty, prosecutors will recommend probation only; no jail time.
Police said Daniel was left in a car on June 17th while his mother was inside a Layton home visiting a friend. She parked her vehicle in a driveway exposed to direct sunlight. Temperatures in Layton were about 89 degrees at the time; experts project that the temperature inside the vehicle would have been approximately 120 degrees. When she came out a couple of hours later, police said she discovered the unresponsive boy. After trying to cool him down, she eventually drove him to Davis Hospital. He died three days later at Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City.
KSL reveals that neither Hadley nor the person she was visiting in Layton chose to call 911; this failure to seek professional assistance may have helped influence the Davis County Attorney to file charges under the presumption that paramedic assistance might have saved the child's life. This might well be a valid presumption, considering the baby lingered three days before passing on.
The case prompted a flurry of calls to the Davis County Attorney's Office about the possibility of charging Hadley. Some callers demanded "justice for the baby," while others said the mother was suffering enough. Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said public input played no role in his decision to charge the mother.
Daniel Hadley's death comes about two months after the death of Myles Gailey, an 18-month-old Kearns boy. His mother returned from the grocery store and forgot her son was in the back of the car. The child died, but charges were not filed against the mother, Jana Gailey. Alicia Cook, with the Salt Lake County Attorney's office told KSL, "We didn't feel it rose to criminal negligence and we also didn't feel there would any service to the community in charging the mother with a crime."
Daniel is survived by his mother; his father, Brian Hadley; and two brothers, ages 3 and 5. Court records show Kamilyn Hadley has no prior record in Utah.
Analysis: This is a tough one, and public opinion as expressed through comments to the various media stories is almost equally divided. Many are quite passionate about their opinions, as well. One person sanctimoniously declared that any mother who left her child in a hot car is a criminal. Others were more moderate, expressing some sympathy for the mother, but also saying that some message of deterrence must be sent. Still others want no punishment, saying that the mother is suffering enough right now.
According to a June 23rd report in the Deseret News, a San Francisco State University meteorology professor estimates that nationwide, 10 children have now died of hyperthermia in 2008 as a result of being left in hot cars. Jan Null, who studies the issue, published a study on the deaths and said the majority of children are "forgotten" by a caregiver and statistically, most are less than a year old. Null's study says that in the last 10 years, 370 children in the United States have died of hyperthermia after being left alone in a car. Utah is NOT among the 14 states which have laws prohibiting leaving unattended children in a vehicle.
Other noteworthy facts from the cited study: The interior temperature of a car can rise about 20 degrees within 10 minutes after being parked, and 30 degress after being parked for only 20 minutes. Cracking the window has virtually no mitigating effect. This means that on an 89 degree day, the interior temperature of a car can reach nearly 120 degrees in ONLY 20 minutes. The kid was left out there for TWO HOURS. And the cited study also indicates that a young child's body can warm three to five times faster than an adult body. And here's a related KSL story discussing these issues. Now you can better understand the sense of outrage felt by some Utahns.
However, it's obvious that Kamilyn Hadley is NOT a felon, and clearly society will not benefit by incarcerating her. And she must be personally devastated by the loss. Her husband and two remaining children do not deserve to be deprived of her companionship for a year. But some message of deterrence must be sent, even if the Salt Lake County Attorney chose to let Jana Gailey off the hook altogether.
The proposed solution by the Davis County Attorney, which will keep her out of jail if she pleads guilty and avoids handicapping her with a felony conviction, seems like the best combination.