THE legal guardian of a 22-month-old girl is facing child abuse charges after the toddler was found dead in a locked van.
Shelton Shambry, 60, from Lindenwold, has been charged with abuse and neglect of Milliani Lawrence after she was spotted by a passerby in a locked minivan.
The van had been parked outside a Camden County, New Jersey train station.
The toddler was spotted at around 2.30pm on August 16 and when the Lindenwold police and Delaware River Port Authority arrived they found Milliani unresponsive in her car seat with the passenger window broken.
She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Her death was ruled as accidental by the medical examiner.
The details of a panicked call to the emergency services, obtained by NBC Philadelphia, showed an unidentified woman telling an emergency dispatcher that Milliani had spent hours in the locked minivan before she was discovered.
The woman, who could have been a family member according to the Courier Post, told the dispatcher: “She’s locked in the van. She was left in the van.”
“Stay on the line … Is there anybody there that would be able to break the window?” the dispatcher asks. “… You said the baby’s turning blue?”
“Yes, her legs is (sic),” the caller said.
Prosecutors say an investigation revealed Shambry forgot the girl was in the vehicle after putting her in it at around 6.30am that morning.
“After an extensive investigation, it was revealed that Shambry, who put the child in the vehicle just prior to 6.30am that morning, forgot that the child was in the vehicle,” said Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo, Delaware River Port Authority Police Chief Jack Stief, and Lindenwold Borough Police Chief Thomas Brennan in a joint statement.
Shambry was released pending court proceedings.
Temperatures had hit around 27C in the area before the girl’s body was found but according to the child-safety organisation Kidsandcars.org, children can die from heat stroke in temperatures as low as 15.5C.
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Temperatures inside a vehicle can heat up very quickly, according to the group which has reported 41 hot-car deaths so far this year.
According to its website, “80 percent of the increase in temperatures happens in the first 10 minutes.”
The organisation also said in 56 per cent of fatal cases children were “unknowingly left” in cars between 1990 and 2018.
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