A detective with the Santaquin Police Department filed a request for a search warrant to seize the mobile phone of a woman whose 6-month-old son died after his body reached a temperature of 109.8 degrees Fahrenheit, possibly from being left in a hot car.
According to the affidavit, officers are investigating whether the infant death was the result of child abuse homicide. The affidavit states Santaquin Police were dispatched at 5:44 p.m. on Aug. 13 to the emergency room at Mountain View Hospital in Payson after receiving reports of an infant that died from overheating in Santaquin. After arriving at the hospital, police discovered the deceased was a 6-month-old boy, who is described as having “hot, red, flushed skin” and a core temperature of 109.8 degree Fahrenheit.
The affidavit states that when the police were initially notified by the hospital about the infant boy, they were told he had died in a storage unit. But other evidence also pointed to the boy possibly dying from being left in a car.
The affidavit notes the infant already had rigor mortis set in, where limbs begin to stiffen after death, which typically begins between two to six hours following death. Rigor mortis was observed by police and confirmed by the emergency room physician. According to the affidavit, the emergency room physician told police the only condition that could cause the infant’s high body temperature would be “environmental elements.” According to police, prior to the emergency room calling about the infant, neither police nor medical personnel received emergency calls regarding the incident.
Police questioned the infant’s mother shortly after being called to the hospital and asked her about the events leading up to the boy’s death, the affidavit states. The affidavit describes the mother’s reaction as “unusual for a mother who just lost their infant child,” stating she was “calm and showing very little emotion,” and “struggling” to shed tears. According to the affidavit, the mother seemed more concerned with self-preservation and with officers accusing her of something than for her child.
Police asked the mother to provide a timeline of her day, which she said included running several errands, including meeting the owner of a storage unit in person. Police found her description of how long events took inconsistent, documents state. The affidavit states the woman told police her baby was in his car seat inside the vehicle right beside her the whole time and she didn’t notice anything until she arrived in Santaquin, after which she said the infant was lethargic, had a blank stare and was hot to the touch. The woman told police that just before arriving at the hospital, her baby began to stiffen and had fluid running from his mouth.
The mother of the infant told police it took approximately 35 minutes to get from Santaquin to Mountain View Hospital driving on SR 198 while speeding, but the affidavit notes the typical drive time using that route and during the time of day the woman described is closer to 10 minutes while driving the speed limit. The woman also told police her cell phone battery died, which is why she couldn’t call for help, according to the affidavit.
According to the affidavit, the woman told police part of her day involved visiting a neighbor around 3 p.m., and that the neighbor held the baby who was fine at the time. The affidavit states police determined the woman visited her neighbor at 1:30 p.m., instead of 3 p.m., and the neighbor denied ever seeing the baby when the woman visited.
As for the alleged meeting in person with the owner of a storage unit, police found the owner denied scheduling an appointment with the woman, and denied insisting the woman meet the owner in person, like the woman told police, which again indicated gaps and inconsistencies in the woman’s timeline, the affidavit states. According to the affidavit, the woman proceeded to change her story a couple of times regarding what she was doing before arriving at the hospital, which led police to ask to see her phone to confirm her timeline and whereabouts before the death of her infant, as well as to confirm the cell phone’s battery was dead.
The affidavit states the woman became defensive and said she didn’t have her phone, after which an officer walked with her to the waiting room of the hospital where her family was waiting; according to the affidavit, the phone was not in the hospital room or the woman’s vehicle, rather it was “mysteriously lost.”
According to the affidavit, the day following the incident the woman’s neighbor had convinced the woman to talk with police regarding “events she left out of her story;” the woman also told police she had found her cell phone stuck between seats of her vehicle. The woman gave the cell phone to police and provided a different story of her whereabouts prior to arriving at the hospital, telling police that instead of running errands, she was driving all over South Utah County searching for her lost dog with the infant in the car and lost track of time, the affidavit states.
Corporal Mike Wall with Santaquin Police said the investigation is ongoing as police try to determine the exact timeline of events that led to the infant boy’s death, and other evidence, such as a report from the medical examiner’s office. However, Wall said, it serves as a reminder to parents to not leave their children unattended in vehicles at any time, but especially on hot days.
“It doesn’t take long for kids to overheat,” Wall said. “(There’s) no safe time to leave kids unattended in a vehicle in this heat.”