Within hours, two children over 900 miles away from each other — Lindenwold, New Jersey and Booneville, Mississippi — died after being left in hot cars on Friday. A 2-year-old girl died in New Jersey after she was left in a minivan for more than eight hours at a train station; meanwhile, a 21-month-old boy was found dead in a hat car in a parking lot in Mississippi.
Nasir Lawrence told CBS Philadelphia that he thought the call from police telling him his daughter, Milliani Robertson-Lawrence, had died, was a "joke."
"Once I got the call, I thought it was a joke. I pretty much broken down and lost my mind," Lawrence said, adding that Milliani had been in the care of her aunt and uncle.
Officials with the Pennsylvania-New Jersey rapid-transit system said the child was found Friday afternoon in a locked vehicle in a parking lot in Lindenwold and could not be resuscitated by emergency responders after they received a 911 call around 3:30 p.m. High temperatures that afternoon reached the upper 80s, but with the heat index it felt more like 92 degrees.
Investigators estimate the girl may have been left inside the van for more than eight hours. "What did you do for eight hours that you forgot a 2-year-old? Exactly what were you doing at the PATCO station?" Lawrence said. "You killed my daughter. You took her from me."
Lawrence had been serving jail time for the past 18 months and was trying to regain custody when he got the news.
"I done everything I was told to do," he told NBC Philadelphia. "Parenting classes. Psych evals. Anger management counseling. I've done drug tests, and I'm still getting denied."
Camden County prosecutors, Lindenwold police and Delaware River Port Authorities officials said in a joint statement that no charges were immediately filed and that the investigations continues. Anyone with information is urged to call investigators.
"I will be following this all the way to the end," Lawrence said. "I am not going to stop until I get justice for my daughter."
Ashley Iwu, whose car was in the area, told WPVI that she couldn't imagine how hot the conditions were inside the van.
"My heart just broke," she said. "I can barely stand outside and so, who can imagine what the temperatures are like in the car?"
About 900 miles away in Booneville, Mississippi, a 21-month-old boy was found dead in a hot car in a parking lot in blistering temperatures. Police found the boy in a rural parking lot shared by Mighty Cubs Daycare and Field of Dreams adult daycare, though "neither business had anything to do with the events that led to the death of the child," Booneville police said on Monday.
Authorities said the child, a white male, had been left in the car at a workplace in Booneville for several hours during the day before arriving to the daycare parking lot around 5 p.m. Police were called and found the child dead inside the vehicle.
A friend of the parent of the child told WTVA that the parent thought they dropped the child off at daycare earlier that day. They didn't realize the child was still in the car until the end of the day.
The temperature in Booneville on Friday reached 90 degrees with a heat index of 93. In the boy's case, no arrest have been made, Booneville Police Chief Michael Ramey told ABC News on Monday. Investigators are still taking statement and examining surveillance video at the scene.0comments
The two deaths are the latest involving children left in vehicles in 2019. Nationwide, 35 children have died in hot cars so far this year, including 10 deaths in August, according to national nonprofit KidsAndCars.org, a group that is advocating for Congress to pass the Hot Cars Act to require rear occupant alarm technology in cars.
Photo credit: Robert Alexander / Contributor / Getty