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Mom avoids prison in car death

Crime: Mother of baby who died of hyperthermia gets probation

Posted: May 25, 2010 10:24 p.m.
Updated: May 26, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
The mother of a toddler who died after he was left in his car seat on a hot summer day pleaded guilty to having caused his death, The Signal has learned.

Emily Winchester, 27, of Canyon Country, was convicted in the San Fernando courthouse early last month on the criminal charge of endangering the life of a child by putting him in a situation likely to cause death.

Jack Winchester, the youngest of three children, died of hyperthermia, an overheating of the body, said Los Angeles County Coroner Captain Ed Winter.

On April 2, California Superior Court Judge Burt Pines sentenced the boy’s mother to five years formal probation and a suspended sentence of four years in state prison.

“What that means is that she is not going to jail,” Det. Eddie Brown, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Homicide Bureau, said Tuesday.

“We were in agreement with this plea deal,” he said, referring to the bureau’s detectives. “We looked at this from many different angles. This was a preventable accident.

“She has two other children to look after, so we agree with the decision.”

On July 21, 2008, the body of 23-month-old Jack Roscoe Winchester was found strapped in the car seat of his family’s minivan in the driveway of the family’s home on High Point Place in Canyon Country.

Emily Winchester, according to homicide detective at the time, reportedly returned home from shopping with her three children and the other two older children entered the family home with her.

Jack Winchester was found in the minivan by his mother later in the day.

The family, still in Canyon Country, has since moved to a house east of Sierra Highway.

Hyperthermia — or heat stroke — is an overheating of the body, according to a website of medical definitions.

Det. Brown, who testified at Emily Winchester’s preliminary hearing, said a suspended sentence is appropriate for the victim’s mother, who is also a victim because she is suffering emotionally and struggling with pain.

Members of her family came out in support of her during the preliminary hearing, he said.

“I told my partner ‘I hope we’ll never have another case like this,’ but, you know, summer is coming. The days are getting hotter. Somebody is going to get a case like this or something similar to this.”

For several months following an autopsy done on the boy’s body, the Coroner’s Office waited for the results of several toxicology tests.

In the end, however, it was a high body temperature that killed Jack Winchester.

In a report prepared by The National Highway Traffic Safety Association, hyperthermia was identified as the No. 1 cause of death when children are left alone inside motor vehicles.

The report also stated that an average of 37 hyperthermia deaths occur each year.

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