JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A father has been charged with second-degree murder after his 8-month-old daughter died in his overheated car in northern Mississippi, police said Friday.
Joshua Blunt, 25, is being held at the Grenada County Jail and his bail has been set at $250,000, said Grenada Assistant Police Chief George Douglas.
Blunt's daughter Shania Caradine was found unconscious late Thursday afternoon in the car, which was parked outside a restaurant where Blunt was working, said Grenada County Deputy Coroner Jo Morman. Douglas said Blunt told police he had gone inside the restaurant and forgotten his daughter. He said police don't know how long the child was in the car.
Morman said Caradine was taken to the University of Mississippi Medical Center Grenada, where physicians tried unsuccessfully to revive her for hours.
She said the child's body was taken to the state crime lab in Pearl for an autopsy. Grenada Municipal Court Administrator Marilyn McKinley said Friday she had no record of whether Blunt has a lawyer or when he will next appear in court.
Caradine is the second child to die in a hot car in Mississippi this month. Two-year-old Caroline Bryant was found dead May 11 in the back seat of her mother's car after the mother forgot to drop her off that morning at a child care facility in Gluckstadt. The mother, Amy Bryant of Brandon, returned to the child care facility thinking she needed to pick up her daughter, only to be told she had never dropped the child off. Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker called it a "tragic accident" and didn't file charges.
Charges are still possible in that case, however, Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest wrote to The Associated Press on Friday in a text message.
"Once the investigation is complete the case will be presented to the grand jury for their determination as to what charges if any should be brought," he wrote.
Jan Null, a lecturer and meteorologist at San Jose State University, found in a 2005 study that the temperature inside a vehicle can rise more than 40 degrees in less than an hour.
Null has counted an average of 37 heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles per year from 1998 to 2015, and seven so far this year. Mississippi had 14 deaths from 1998 to 2015, the sixth-worst per capita rate, Null said.
While 20 states have made it illegal to leave children alone in vehicles in at least some circumstances, Mississippi has not. Parents can still face criminal charges under other laws, though.
Null said the number of deaths has dipped since 2014 because of publicity surrounding the case of Justin Ross Harris, an Atlanta-area man who faces murder charges in the June 2014 of his 22-month-old son. Investigators accuse Harris of intentionally leaving the child to die. A Georgia judge earlier this month granted a change of venue for Harris' trial, saying it was clear after three weeks of jury selection that many potential jurors already strongly believed Harris is guilty.
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