A 10-month-old baby is dead after being left in a hot car outside a house in south Wichita, and police arrested a foster parent who said he'd forgotten about her until something on TV jogged his memory, an official said Friday.
Seth Michael Jackson, 29, was booked on suspicion of aggravated endangerment but has not been charged, said Lt. Todd Ojile of the Wichita Police Department. The case will be presented early next week to prosecutors.
The girl's distraught maternal grandmother, Cindy Poe of Topeka, Kansas, went to police headquarters Friday demanding to see her granddaughter's body and to find out where her other two grandchildren had been taken.
"I want answers," Poe told The Associated Press. "I want to know why my grandbaby was in that car."
The investigation found that the girl was picked up from the baby sitter at around 4 p.m. Thursday and brought home, where she was "somehow forgotten" in the back seat of the car in Wichita, where temperatures were around 90 degrees. The foster parent went inside the house with a 5-year-old child that had also been with him, but left the baby strapped in the car seat in the parked car outside the house.
The other foster parent in the house at the time, his 26-year-old partner, was in the backyard when they came in. No charges are expected against him, Ojile said.
"He believed all the children were downstairs playing," Ojile said. "He did not know the child was outside."
Both realized at the same time the baby was still in the car when "something on TV" jogged their memories, Ojile said, without elaborating.
The couple then ran outside the house and found the girl inside the car, still strapped in her car seat. The car's tinted windows were all up.
Emergency dispatchers got a call at 6:41 p.m. Thursday, and the girl was pronounced dead at the scene a few minutes later.
"Both were extremely upset," Ojile said of the foster parents.
The foster couple had been trying to adopt the 10-month-old girl they had cared for nearly all her life. They also had three other foster children, ages 3, 5 and 18; and had two adopted children, ages 5 and 7. The two younger foster children were gone at the time visiting other relatives. The couple's two young adopted children were taken into police protective custody.
According to the nonprofit child safety group KidsAndCars.org, 18 children have died in hot cars this year in the United States, including a Georgia boy whose father is charged with murder on suspicion of intentionally leaving the 22-month-old in a hot car last month as he went to work.
The Kansas City, Missouri-based group said 10 children have died in hot cars in Kansas since 2000.
When a child is left in the back seat, even with the windows down, it doesn't take long for temperatures to reach dangerous levels. They say that almost any time of year is dangerous because the temperature in a closed car can jump more than 20 degrees in just 10 minutes.
Experts are asking everyone to look around when they enter gas stations and grocery stores. They say if someone sees a child inside a car alone, they should immediately call 911.
Advocates say there are easy ways to remember your child.
Put your handbag, briefcase or cell phone behind the driver's seat because this will force you to look back.
You can also keep a stuffed animal up front as a reminder.
Ask your daycare provider to call you if your child doesn't show up.
"First and foremost never, never leave your child alone in a car, period, never. It doesn't take much. This year's first fatality happened in California when temperatures were still hovering in the 70s," said United States Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.
Last year 44 kids died in hot cars. Experts believe many of these deaths are often accidents because of extreme fatigue and changes in schedules that cause parents to forget to look in the backseat.
A petition has been created to raise awareness about child heat stroke deaths in vehicles. Click here to read and/or sign it.
Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.