The man who accidentally left a 2-year-old girl in a hot car for hours last week, leading to her death, had no right to drive and drank a beer as the child sweltered in the back seat, police said.
Police and court documents obtained Tuesday say Daiquan Fields, 32, had had his driving privileges revoked and drank a beer and watched television as his girlfriend's toddler sat forgotten in the car.
Fields faces felony child neglect and involuntary manslaughter charges after he left the Annandale, Virginia, toddler in the back seat Wednesday. Court documents suggest a change in Fields' routine dropping off the 2-year-old and her siblings, who are 10 and 15, may have contributed to the tragedy.
Fields said in an interview with police that he normally dropped the toddler off with a babysitter and then took the two older children to school. But on Wednesday, they were running late dropping off the oldest child. Fields dropped off the oldest child first and then the middle child, he told police. He then returned to the family's apartment in Annandale, leaving the 2-year-old strapped in her car seat.
Fields told police he was home all day, even meeting a housing inspector who stopped by. He drank a beer and watched television before he left late in the afternoon to pick up the children's mother from her job at the mall in Pentagon City, he told police.
An investigator wrote that when Fields pulled up at the mall and sent a text message to his girlfriend, he saw the toddler in the back seat. The child appeared blue and fluid dripped from her nose, he told police. He called 911 and told the dispatcher he was trying to preform CPR. The toddler was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The temperature Wednesday was about 70 degrees, but the toddler had a body temperature of 107 degrees when she was rushed to a hospital, a search warrant says. The child had second-degree burns where her body made contact with the car seat, the document says.
Police executed a search warrant of the family's home and found suspected marijuana, a plastic pipe and other drug paraphernalia, police said. Fields reportedly told police he had last smoked marijuana Sunday, April 17, three days before the child died.
A change in routine can contribute to a child being left in a car, Don Goddard of the Fairfax County Police Department said.
"When people get into routines like this, they become accustomed to doing things in an order," he said. "If that routine or habit changes, sometimes it leads to a tragedy."
The inside of a car can reach 115 degrees in an hour when it is hotter than 70 degrees outside, according to researchers at San Francisco State University.
Fairfax County police said last week they did not believe Fields had any criminal intent.
Heatstroke is a leading cause of death among children.
"We have seen children die in hot cars on days where it was in the 50s outside, so what feels comfortable to us is not comfortable to our children," said Amber Rollins, the director of the safety group KidsAndCars.org.
The group recommends leaving a stuffed animal in a child's car seat. When you buckle in the child, move the stuffed animal to the front seat as a reminder the child is there. Or, move your bag, work identification card or even your left shoe into the back seat as a reminder.
News4 has tips on how to keep children safe, including by giving yourself visual and audible reminders that children are in the car.