Friday, Steven Darnell Lillie was charged for leaving his daughter unsupervised in his car for four hours. The Florida “hot car” death is another disturbing case that underscores the need for better parenting and heat stroke awareness.
Lillie faces murder charges in the death of his 9-month-old baby daughter, according to Florida Today. Originally, the Rockledge resident was arrested on manslaughter four days after the tragic incident in June. However, Friday’s amended charges by the state’s attorney general is an indication that new evidence surfaced or officials are demonstrating less tolerance for caregivers leaving children in hot cars.
Apparently, Steven D. Lillie was supposed to drop off his baby girl to her grandmother’s home before he went to work. At some point during his work shift, Lillie and a co-worker discovered the girl’s lifeless body still in his truck after four hours. Distraught by his daughter’s death, he phoned emergency operators and described what happened — that he “absolutely forgot about her.”
Steven Darnell Lillie’s attorney released a statement on his behalf and admonished prosecutors over felony charges levied against their client.
“Mr. Lillie and his family are disappointed that the State has elected to file formal charges against him for the accidental death of his daughter Anna on June 16th, 2014. This family has suffered an inconceivable loss, compounded by his almost immediate arrest and now by the filing of formal charges.
“While Mr. Lillie and his family are devastated by this tragedy, they remain united as they face of these criminal charges. The family appreciates the community for its condolences and continued support.”
The lead prosecutor for the state, Julia Lynch, disagrees that the state’s actions were an improper rendering of justice. She asserts that the state has an obligation to enforce laws that govern the right of those who are vulnerable and cannot defend themselves from the negligence and wrongdoing from others.
“We recognize that we are charging someone for a tragedy here, but if a person causes a tragedy and this leads to the unlawful taking of a life, then they have to take responsibility for it. The laws are there to protect children, and we’re enforcing them,” said Lynch.”
Steven Lillie faces felony charges for third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, and injuring a child under the age of six. All charges carry different prison sentences and burdens of proof by the state. Altogether, the central Florida man faces up to 20 years in prison for leaving the baby in a hot car.
Recently, a string of similar cases involving children in hot cars have cropped up in the news. Some involve caregivers leaving children unattended for hours to gamble; others involve negligence associated with shopping or leaving a child in a sweltering vehicle while visiting a strip club.
However, in the case of Steven Darnell Lillie, it appears his daughter’s case was a tragic accident, with no intent to harm. Still, it is unsettling for all involved.
Should the man have been charged with murder or a lesser violation?
[Image: Craig Rubadoux via USA Today]