Alicia Manigault, 20, was charged Thursday with first-degree cruelty to children, according to a Richmond County Sheriff’s Office report.
Deputies were called to the parking lot of Virginia College, 2807 Wylds Road, about 8:45 a.m. after Raisa Garnett, a school security guard, heard the infant crying.
Deputies Jacob Green, Oleg Grinko, Michael Rollins and J. Scott responded to the call. They saw a baby carrier in the rear cargo area of a dark gray 2011 Toyota 4-Runner with an infant inside, covered by a white blanket. The engine was not running and the windows were down about 1 to 2 inches.
The sunroof was open and Green climbed through it and unlocked the doors, freeing the baby and allowing first responders from the fire department to treat him.
The infant – identified as Christopher Howard – was covered in sweat and first responders determined he was in critical condition, according to the report.
The baby received hydration treatment at Georgia Regents Medical Center and was released Thursday afternoon to his maternal grandmother. The Department of Family and Children Services is investigating.
Manigault, of the 3300 block of Ridgecrest Drive, told deputies she left the baby in the vehicle while she went inside to get something from her class. Manigault stated she was only inside for 10 minutes. But Cassandra Brooks, a teacher at Virginia College, told deputies Manigault was there to take a test that was to begin at 8:30 a.m., the report said.
Manigault said a friend from Virginia College was supposed to be waiting with her child but Manigault did not trust the friend with her vehicle so she left her son inside, out of direct sunlight, and locked the SUV, according to the report.
Manigault apologized for leaving the child inside, but deputies “did not see or hear any signs of emotion or remorse until the suspect was taken into custody,” the report said.
Manigault’s vehicle was parked in a blacktop lot without shade, the report said.
The infant is believed to have been in the vehicle for 30 to 60 minutes, according to Richmond County sheriff’s Sgt. Monica Belser.
Ronita Johnson, who witnessed the incident, told deputies she saw Manigault “looking around, then walking around (the 4-Runner) carrying a child’s car seat covered with a white blanket.” Johnson saw Manigault place the child’s car seat in the rear of the vehicle and walk to the college, the report said.
According to the National Weather Service, the recorded temperature at Bush Field airport less than 10 minutes after the incident was 82 degrees.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicles parked in direct sunlight can reach internal temperatures of 131 to 172 degrees when outside temperatures are 80 to 100 degrees. Experts said cracking windows does little to affect the rapid increase in temperature.
A child’s organs start to fail at 104 degrees, and 107 degrees can cause death, said Reg Griffin, the chief communications officer for the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning.
In warm weather, it takes less than 10 minutes to reach life-threatening levels for small children, whose bodies absorb more heat on a hot day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Griffin encouraged passers-by to get involved when they see children left in cars.
“There’s a tendency for people to see a child in a car and think it’s a family issue, so ‘I won’t get involved,’ but that’s a poor decision,” he said.
On average, 38 children die in hot cars each year from heat-related deaths, according to KidsAndCars.org. Eight children have died in Georgia this year, Griffin said, including a 22-month-old Cobb County boy who died Wednesday after being left unattended and strapped into the car seat of his father’s vehicle while he was at work. The man has been charged with murder.
On Monday, a 9-month-old Florida girl died after being left in her father’s pickup.
In the majority of the cases, it comes down to simply forgetting the child is there, according to KidsAndCars.org, but in 11 percent of the cases the children are intentionally left behind. In 30 percent of cases, children get into cars by themselves and can’t get out.
About 30 percent of children who die in hot cars are younger than 1.