Deanna Joseph is in jail on charges that she took drugs and passed out in the front seat of her car while her 2-year-old daughter — unattended in a car seat behind her for hours — suffered a fatal injury.
The 39-year-old New Jersey mother was reportedly under the influence of drugs when the young girl suffered the injury. The Independent reported that the mother noticed that her daughter was not responsive and called the police, who arrived to find the child strapped into a car seat with the engine running.
Police did not release exact details on how the toddler died but said it appeared to be an injury rather than any kind of foul play.
“It appeared the child was confined in a car seat for an extended period of time while the mother was under the influence of drugs, and may have injured herself in the car seat,” Salem County Prosecutor John T. Lenahan said.
The Sun reported that the toddler had been left unattended in the car for hours. Joseph was reportedly in the car with her daughter during a cool night, but the mother left the heater running.
Police are still trying to determine the cause of death for Deanna Joseph’s young daughter, who was not named. Lenahan said the child had no obvious signs of blunt force trauma, NJ.com reported. The toddler’s exact cause of death will now be determined by a medical examiner.
This is not the first time that Deanna Joseph has been accused of leaving her children unattended. In 2014, she was arrested after police found her unresponsive while her infant son was in a bath. She was sentenced to one year in prison, the Independent reported. In another case in 2008, Joseph was arrested after her two children were found alone at home. Police reportedly found Deanna in a nearby park under the influence of drugs.
The toddler’s death garnered national attention this week, with the story spreading beyond New Jersey to make headlines across the nation and internationally as well. Many commenters noted that the mother should not have had custody of her children again after her previous arrests, saying that the young girl’s tragic death was completely avoidable.
The story also follows a spate of other incidents of children dying after being left alone or unattended in cars.
Deanna Joseph was arrested on charges of second-degree child endangerment and faces a 10-year sentence if convicted.
[Featured Image by Salem County Corrections]