Criminal Justice

2 Babies Die in Hot Cars, 1 Dad in Prison

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Two grieving fathers in far-distant states still reproach themselves over the the deaths of their babies, whom they left alone in cars parked in the sun, years ago now.

One does so in his faculty office at the University of California at Irvine. The other, a former horse groom, remembers his daughter in a Florida prison, where he is serving a 20-year sentence for aggravated manslaughter, reports the Associated Press.

Mark Warschauer says he simply forgot that his 10-month-old son was in his car, and drove to work on autopilot on Aug. 8, 2003, after spending much of the night awake with the baby. Within three hours, his son was found dead in his dad’s car. Warschauer wasn’t prosecuted over the boy’s death, which was ruled an accident. Today he has three more children, including a set of twins, and tethers himself to the car with a strap when he drives with them to remind himself of their presence.

Antonio Balta, whose IQ tested at 74, according to a psychologist, says he didn’t know that a baby could die from being left in a hot car. His daughter was alone in the car on March 14, 2004, for perhaps 45 minutes while he was in a track betting parlor. When he returned to the car, she was limp and unresponsive.

The number of children who have died in overheated cars has risen dramatically since the mid 1990s, and totals about 340 in the past decade, according to another AP story on the issue of appropriate punishment for parents in these tragic cases. Ironically, one reason for the increase in deaths is that babies are now commonly put in special child-safety seats in the back seat of the car—where they are more easily forgotten—to better protect them in case of an auto accident.

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