Caddo DA: No charges in death of child left in car - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

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Caddo DA: No charges in death of child left in car

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The Caddo Parish Coroner says Sariah Delafosse, 3, died of hyperthermia and ruled her death accidental. The Caddo Parish Coroner says Sariah Delafosse, 3, died of hyperthermia and ruled her death accidental.
Sariah's body was found in the back seat of her mother's parked car outside her Ingleside home on July 5, 2013. Sariah's body was found in the back seat of her mother's parked car outside her Ingleside home on July 5, 2013.
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -

The Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office has concluded that criminal charges will not be filed against Krystle Delafosse as a result of the heat death of infant Sariah Delafosse.

The 3-year-old was found lifeless in her mother's car outside her Ingleside neighborhood home on July 5, 2013. Temperatures were in the 90s that day, and the thermometer in the vehicle read 113°.

The coroner's office ruled the child's death accidental, but the decision about whether or not to file charges is up to the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office.

District Attorney Charles Scott issued his findings early Friday afternoon, 5 months nearly to the day after Sariah's death. In those findings, Scott references 2 similar infant deaths in the past several years, both fathers who did not normally take their children to daycare who went to work and left the infants in their vehicles.

"Although Sariah Delafosse stayed in her mother's vehicle longer than the two prior incidents, it is clear that Krystle Delafosse similarly and tragically forgot her child was in the vehicle. Each of these parents was otherwise caring and responsible for their children in that they were employed and or continuing their education and otherwise maintained safe environments for their children."

Scott goes on to distinguish those cases from parents or caregivers who "make a calculated decision to place a child at risk by leaving the child in a hot car while conducting other activities such as shopping, gambling, drinking etc," and finds that "there is no basis to conclude that any intentional act of neglect or abuse occurred."

The following is the full statement from the DA:

"The investigation revealed that 31-year-old Krystle Delafosse was the mother of three-year-old Sariah Delafosse, four-year-old Matthew Delafosse and seven-year-old SirKeitrick Delafosse.  SirKeitrick Delafosse was staying with other relatives at the time of this incident.

Krystle Delafosse was attending a local technical college and working at local restaurant. As a result of her school and work schedules, Sariah and Matthew were living with their father and the father's mother. Ms. Delafosse would visit with her children on days off. On July 4, 2013, Ms. Delafosse did not have school or work. In the early afternoon Ms. Delafosse drove to the residence of the father in an attempt to visit with her children. The children were at another location. The father advised that he would call when the children returned. In the late evening hours the father telephoned and advised the children were home. Ms. Delafosse arrived to find that Matthew wanted to stay with the father, but Sariah did want to go with her. As Ms. Delafosse and the father spoke, Sariah was placed in a child restraint located behind the driver's seat by the father. After speaking with the father for a few more minutes in the driveway, Ms. Delafosse drove home. Both the father and Delafosse advised that the children not staying together was very unusual. Ms. Delafosse advised that Sariah would usually sing or kick the back of her seat while riding, but on this occasion she did not do either. She advised that Sariah never made a sound after leaving and believes that the child fell asleep. Delafosse advised that she drove straight home without any stops, got out of her vehicle and went in the house. After arriving home, Delafosse texted with a friend who later came over and spent the night. This person left the home about sunrise. Ms. Delafosse woke about noon, showered and prepared clothes for work at 5 PM. Ms. Delafosse prepared to leave for work a little early to make one-stop. It was at this point that she walked to her vehicle and found Sariah. She then phoned the father and then 911. Ms. Delafosse left the father's residence between 10:30 and 11 PM on July 4 and called 911 at approximately 4:30 PM on July 5.

Shreveport Police and Fire Department personnel responded to the 911 call of Ms. Delafosse and found the child unresponsive. Patrol officers located the mother collapsed and wailing nearby. The Shreveport Fire Department pronounced the child deceased at the scene. The child was found in the rear cabin of the vehicle between the front and rear seat. The outside afternoon temperature was in the 90's on this particular day and the thermometer in the vehicle read 113°. There was a car seat found on the rear seat behind the driver.

Shreveport police investigated this case and turned the matter over to the District Attorney's Office for review without making an arrest at the time. Blood tests of Ms. Delafosse were negative for alcohol or drugs. The father was interviewed and corroborated statements of Ms. Delafosse. Telephone, school and work records were reviewed, as well, to confirm statements of Ms. Delafosse.

An autopsy was performed by the Caddo Parish Corner's Office. Given the historic and investigative materials, findings at autopsy and toxicology results, the Corner determined the cause of death to be hyperthermia. The manner of death was determined to be accidental.

A DCFS investigation was undertaken where valid findings were held for the lack of adequate supervision and death/neglect by Krystle Delafosse. The DCFS investigation included similar interviews as conducted by the Shreveport Police Department and a review of the Corner's findings. DCFS based its findings on the undisputed fact that Krystle Delafosse left her child unattended in a vehicle for almost 18 hours which resulted in the child's death. DCFS also noted that there were no previous abuse complaints against Ms. Delafosse and that her two other children appeared to be well taken care of.

The Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office has conducted reviews of two similar infant deaths. In August, 2006, a father who was normally responsible for taking his children to daycare forgot his two-year-old son in the vehicle after driving to work. That particular day was only the second occasion for delivering the children to separate locations. Unfortunately, after dropping the older child at school, the father drove directly to work, parked his vehicle and went inside instead of delivering the infant to day care. He did not go back to his vehicle and until the end of the workday. As he approached his vehicle, he saw his child's blanket draped over the car seat and realized he had forgotten the child in the vehicle. The father removed the blanket, saw the child who he believed to be dead and drove immediately to the hospital emergency room. The child died of hyperthermia. The father indicated that he had been under in an unusual amount of stress in the weeks prior to the incident. The child was located in a restraint seat located directly behind the driver.

In August, 2012, a father left his home for work at approximately 6:30 AM with his infant daughter strapped in a car seat in the back of his vehicle. Instead of dropping the child at daycare, the father drove straight to work. In the middle of the afternoon the father received a message inquiring why the child was not at daycare. The father ran to his vehicle and found the child deceased. The investigation revealed that there was no routine for the delivery of the child to day care and that the father, mother and grandmother would take turns at this task. During the period the child was in the car, the father showed coworkers photographs of his child, not realizing the child was in the vehicle.

Although Sariah Delafosse stayed in her mother's vehicle longer than the two prior incidents, it is clear that Krystle Delafosse similarly and tragically forgot her child was in the vehicle. Each of these parents was otherwise caring and responsible for their children in that they were employed and or continuing their education and otherwise maintained safe environments for their children.

The Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office distinguishes this case and the two prior cases discussed above from any case where a parent or caregiver makes a calculated decision to place a child at risk by leaving the child in a hot car while conducting other activities such as shopping, gambling, drinking etc.

In this case, as in the two prior incidents, there is no basis to conclude that any intentional act of neglect or abuse occurred. There appears to only be the glaring admission by each parent that they forgot their child in their vehicle while otherwise believing that the child was in a protected place.

The charge under evaluation in this matter is that of negligent homicide which is the killing of the human being by criminal negligence. Criminal negligence requires the finding that the offender's conduct has such a disregard of the interest of others that the offenders conduct amounts to a gross deviation below the standard of care expected to be maintained by reasonably careful man under like circumstances. There's no question that there is a significant duty by a parent or caregiver to protect their children. It is clear from our everyday experience that children are not accidentally forgotten in vehicles very often. However, there are many anecdotal instances of otherwise reasonable parents showing up at work or other places with a child that should have been dropped off at another location. These tragic incidents are seen nationally all too often.

The Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office has determined in this case, as in the two prior cases, that the parent admitted the tragic mistake which led to the child's death. This parent, as well as the previous two parents,will suffer as a result of their actions for the rest of their lives.

Each case is evaluated on its own merits, but must be considered in light of previous incidents. Evaluations of potential criminal prosecutions must be consistently conducted and applied. Again, the facts of these cases are distinguished from situations where caregivers make a conscious decision to place children in danger.

An informative Pulitzer Prize winning article by Gene Weingarten on this topic can be located here."

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