4 Arizona children died in hot cars in 2019; 1 father still facing charges

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Four Arizona children died from being left in hot cars during 2019, according to the safety organization Kids and Cars.

No charges have been filed against any of the adults responsible in the four Arizona deaths, but a criminal case against a Lake Havasu City father from the May hot-car death of his daughter remains active.

Here are the four cases:

Who: 3-year-old Charlotte Jones.

Where: Gilbert.

Month: September.

Scott Jones, 37, no longer faces prosecution for the hot-car death of his daughter, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office confirmed Tuesday. Officials said the 3-year-old was left in the car for “an extended period of time” on Sept. 3, 2019. Transcripts of the 911 calls from the incident revealed the family had a vacation planned the following day, so the parents decided to keep her home from school.

Gilbert police arrested Jones in December on suspicion of negligent homicide, but the County Attorney’s Office decided “the evidence in this case did not support a reasonable likelihood of conviction at trial.”

Who: 20-month-old Madison Martin, according to Kids in Cars.

Where: Lake Havasu City.

Month: May.

Ty Martin, 23, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter after he left his 20-month-old daughter in the car for about 45 minutes on May 11, 2019, according to Lake Havasu City police.

Martin was visiting friend Noah Grabowski, 23, at the time of her death, officials said. After a search warrant was served, Grabowski was arrested on charges of possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and cultivation of marijuana. 

Martin is scheduled to appear before the Mohave County Superior Court on Jan. 27, 2020, and to appear before a jury on March 2, 2020, a Mohave County Attorney’s Office spokesperson said. 

Who: 18-month-old girl.

Where: Glendale. 

Month: April. 

An 18-month-old girl died after being left in a car for “at least a few hours” on April 22, 2019, Glendale police said. A criminal investigation was conducted by detectives, and the County Attorney’s Office confirmed charges against the father are no longer being considered. Initial interviews with the parents revealed the child was usually at day care during the day. Officials did not release the name of the child or any subject of the criminal investigation. 

Who: 4-month-old Samora Cousin.

Where: Phoenix.

Month: October.

The County Attorney’s Office decided not to prosecute Roger Ham for the death of Samora Cousin, his foster daughter, after he left her in the car for an extended period of time on Oct. 1, 2019. 

Ham, who has fostered and adopted more than a dozen children, forgot the 4-month-old was in the vehicle after an appointment, Phoenix police said. The County Attorney’s Office initially decided not to charge Ham, but agreed to review evidence provided by the child’s family before making its final decision. That evidence was never provided. 

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Advocacy group ‘thrilled’ at no charges

Gilbert police said the circumstances of hot-car death cases often determine how officials decide whether or not to charge the person responsible for the child at the time of the incident.

Generally, prosecution becomes “very easy” if alcohol or drugs are involved, Gilbert police spokesman Sgt. Mark Mariano said. 

According to the nonprofit Kids and Cars, more than half of heatstroke-related deaths in cars happen because a caregiver unknowingly left them, and the ability to forget a child in a car is a matter of brain science. 

“We were thrilled to hear that the Gilbert father will not be facing any charges,” a spokesperson from Kids and Cars said. “Criminalizing these unintentional tragedies just further distances others from understanding that this can literally happen to anyone.” 

How can I make sure this doesn’t happen to my child? 

Child health and welfare organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that you:

  • Avoid distractions while driving.
  • Keep your car locked when no one is in it and store car keys out of reach. Children sometimes climb into unlocked vehicles and accidentally lock themselves in.
  • Teach children that cars are not places to play, and that they are off-limits for games such as hide-and-seek. You should also keep any rear fold-down seats upright to stop kids from crawling into the trunk from inside the car. 
  • Make a habit of putting something in the backseat that you can’t leave your car without, such as a shoe, cellphone, wallet or purse. This will remind you to check the area near a car seat before leaving the vehicle. 
  • Take extra care when your routine changes, such as when you take a different route or when someone else is driving your child. Call to make sure your child made it to his or her destination if you aren’t driving. You could also ask your child-care provider to call if your child is ever more than 10 minutes late.
  • Use an app — such as Waze, Baby on Board or Kars4Kids Safety — with a car-reminder feature.

Reporter Chelsea Hofmann can be reached at chelsea.hofmann@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter @chofmann528.

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