The Law Blog of Oklahoma

Del City Mother Convicted after Leaving Infant in Hot Car

Monday, September 18, 2017

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 hoursat 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 thecar.

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 infantwas 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 gether 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 sleepingin 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 ornot 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--theoldest 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 intothe 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 returnedhome. 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 foundGonzales 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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