ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A woman who attended a funeral Saturday nearly had a second one on her hands when she left her 4-month-old daughter in her van for about 3½ hours.
Natasha Graver, 32, of St. Petersburg, Fla., was charged with one count of child abuse, a felony, and was booked early Sunday in Pinellas County Jail. She was later released on $5,000 bond.
Paramedics treated her baby for heat exposure and transported the infant to All Children's Hospital here, where officials say the child's condition is stable and that she is likely to survive. The child is undergoing tests.
Graver had decided to attend the funeral of three women killed in a hit-and-run accident June 26, authorities said. She placed her daughter in a child-safety seat in the back seat of her van, went to church but told officers that she forgot to bring the baby in with her, leaving the van with the windows rolled up.
Then she drove home, still forgetting that the child was in the back seat, and went inside, officers said. Graver's husband, the girl's father, was there and apparently did not ask where the child was, assuming his wife had left her with a relative.
When the couple decided to go out to eat, both got into the van, discovered their daughter unresponsive and called emergency officials.
Saturday's high in St. Petersburg was 87 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
In recent weeks, other children also have suffered heat stroke but survived after being left in vehicles:
• In Huntington, N.Y., a man was accused of leaving his 2-year-old daughter inside his car for 20 to 25 minutes Thursday while he shopped. A passerby heard the child crying and called police, who broke a window to get the girl out.
The temperature in the vehicle had reached 120 degrees.
Melvin Marroquin, 30, of Maryland, who was visiting family in the area, was arrested on charges of endangering the welfare of a child and second-degree reckless endangerment. He was released Saturday from Suffolk County jail on $100,000 bond.
• A Pittsburgh mother and stepfather left her 2-year-old inside their car Wednesday night while they want into a bar to drink. Police were alerted when a passerby called 911 on the hot, humid night.
Terri Hymes, 30, is facing felony child endangerment, public intoxication and disorderly conduct charges; Archie Howard, 27, is facing misdemeanor child endangerment, public intoxication and disorderly conduct charges. Both are out of jail on $100,000 bond, and a preliminary hearing is July 9.
The boy initially was not responsive but was treated at a local hospital and now is in custody of officials with the Pennsylvania Office of Children, Youth and Families.
• In Portland, Ore., a nanny is accused leaving of a 3-year-old boy and a 2-month-old girl, inside a vehicle May 15 on a 90-degree day while she went to a tanning salon, a passerby there also called police.
Kristin Marie Jones, 23, was indicted June 27 on two counts each of first-degree criminal mistreatment, recklessly endangering another, first-degree child neglect and one count of driving while suspended and has pleaded not guilty. Her next court date is Aug. 15, and she has been ordered to have no unsupervised contact with children and cannot continue work as a nanny.
So far this year, at least 13 children have died from heat stroke after being left in vehicles or climbing in and getting trapped, according to KidsAndCars.org, a nonprofit child-safety organization that monitors news sites and police reports involving children and vehicle accidents. Last year 44 children died.
The most recent deaths occurred in mid-June when Georgia IT worker Justin Harris, 33, of Marietta, Ga., left his 22-month-old son, Cooper, in his SUV June 18 for more than eight hours while he was at work. He was charged with felony murder and child cruelty and remains in Cobb County Jail.
Two days earlier, Steven Lillie, 31, of Cocoa, Fla., picked up a co-worker and went to work in Rockledge, Fla., leaving his 9-month-old girl, Anna Marie, for nearly four hours in the back of his pick-up truck. He was charged June 20 with aggravated manslaughter and was released the next day on $15,000 bond.
Hot-car deaths began to climb in the late 1990s when officials realized that front-seat airbags were killing kids in wrecks and a movement began to put children in the back, said Amber Rollins, director and volunteer manager of KidsAndCars.org. Children are safer in the back seat, but parents and other caregivers should use a reminder — a purse, briefcase, cellphone, even their left shoe put in the back, too — so no child will be left behind.
Children age 4 and younger are more susceptible to heat stroke than adults, and when outside temperatures are in the low 80s, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in 10 minutes even when windows are rolled down 2 inches, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Death happens when a child's internal temperature reaches 107 degrees.
Even when it's in the 60s outside, a car's interior can heat to 110 degrees in about an hour.
In St. Petersburg, officers with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Child Protection Investigation Division also responded to Saturday's 911 call.
Graver's four other children, ages 1 to 13, were left in the custody of her husband.