Forgotten Toddlers Die in Hot Cars, Are Parents to Blame?

Julie Ryan Evans

toddler sleeping in carTwo recent cases of children dying in hot cars leave us saddened, stunned, and full of questions. While they're said to be accidents, it's unfathomable that someone could really forget their own child in the car ... or is it?

The first case involves a father in Italy, Lucio Petrizzia, who is a professor of veterinary science. He says he thought he dropped his 22-month-old daughter, Elena, off at her daycare on his way to work. Tragically, he didn't, and she wasn't found until five hours later. Three days later, she was declared dead.

Prosecutors are deciding whether to charge him with manslaughter. The girl's mother, Chiara Sciarrini, who is currently eight months pregnant, has pleaded for people not to judge him too harshly. She told the BBC it "could have happened to anyone."

I want to shout to the entire world how much my companion loved his daughter. He is an exemplary father.

The second case happened this weekend in Louisville, Kentucky, when a 2-year-old boy was found dead in the car after being left there for several hours. His mother, Mollie Shouse, has been charged with murder. She's a licensed practical nurse. The fact that she was found with marijuana and "another controlled substance" may make this case more complicated and her much less of a sympathetic character. Still, the boy is dead, and drugs or not, it doesn't appear that she intended to harm her son.

Nothing can be more horrific than the thought of these innocent children dying in such a tragic, awful manner, but my heart also breaks at the thought of the parents left to cope in the wake of the tragedy. To think of living with guilt like that for the rest of your life is unbearable. I don't know how you go on after something like that, and I'm not sure any further punishment is necessary, at least in the case of the father.

More than anything, I keep asking myself if this could ever happen to me. In both of these cases, these are smart, educated professionals who you would think would know better. But perhaps it can happen to the best of us?

I want to say that I can't imagine ever leaving one of my children in the car by accident. I would hope not, and now that my daughter is older and screams louder than a banshee, it's more unlikely. But when she was younger, and I was harried ... when she was quietly sleeping in the back of the car, and I hadn't slept for days ... I don't know.

I have enough doubt to not want to condemn these parents, but rather to mourn for them. We all make mistakes as parents, and unfortunately some of them are more horrific than our worst nightmares.

Can you imagine ever forgetting your child in the car? Do you think the parents should be criminally charged?

Image via MJ/TR/Flickr

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