On August 29, 2015, 37-year-old Adele Gonzales and her 16-year-old daughter went to a Del City nail salon to get their nails done. After spending two hours at the salon, the mother-daughter duo returned home, where they discovered the lifeless body of Gonzales's 5-month-old daughter in the back of the car.
In some cases, hot car deaths are chalked up as accidents--harried parents or caregivers forget that a sleeping infant is in the car with tragic results. In some cases, these deaths are attributed to criminal neglect.
In the Gonzales case, prosecutors alleged that the mother was criminally negligent in her baby's death. They say that she should have known the infant was in the car, and that she left with her eldest daughter to get their nails done without ever verifying the infant's whereabouts or safety.
Defense attorneys argued that the 16-year-old daughter put the sleeping baby in the car, but forgot to tell her mother because she was so excited to get her nails done. The defense argued that Gonzales assumed her baby was with other children left at the home and didn't realize that she was sleeping in the car.
However, prosecutors say Gonzales left the home without ever checking to see where the baby was. They say that when her eldest daughter asked whether or not the baby was coming to the nail salon with them, she told her, "Yes." They note that even if she thought the baby was at the home with other children--the oldest of whom was 12--she never checked to see that the infant was okay before leaving, and during the more than two hours she was away from home, she never called to check on the children left behind.
Additionally, prosecutors pointed to inconsistencies in Gonzales's story. Police say that the mother initially told them that she brought the baby into the nail salon with her, and she reported that she left the infant in the car with the air conditioner running for about 20 minutes after they returned home. Gonzales later admitted that she lied.
An Oklahoma County jury agreed with prosecutors that a series of negligent acts by the infant's mother led to the baby's death. Last week the jury found Gonzales guilty of child neglect and recommended a sentence of 18 months in prison. The maximum penalty for child neglect is life in prison.
Gonazales's attorney says he is disappointed in the jury's decision, calling the baby's death a "tragic accident."
Assistant District Attorney Lori McConnell countered in closing arguments, "It's a tragedy, but don't confuse that with an accident.”
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