A Meridian, Mississippi, couple has been charged with Felony Child Abuse after Gulfport police allegedly found their children in a hot car while the couple gambled.
James Terrell Dunn, 32, with his wife Monique Latrice Newton, 33, parked his car in the in the parking lot of Island View Casino. Police say that he told a security guard that he had covered his windows in order to protect the interior of his car from the sun. He made no mention that his two children were also inside.
“The security officer went and checked on the car about an hour later at 2:40 p.m.,” Sergeant Damon McDaniel said. The casino’s guard noticed that a 9-yearold girl and an 11-year-old boy were inside.
The security officer alerted the police about the children, McDaniel said.
The engine was off and the windows were secured shut. The officer pointed out that the temperature at the time was 95 degrees, reported WLOX.
The heat index for Saturday was 109 degrees on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.
“The kids were checked out by medical personnel on the scene,” McDaniel said. “They were sweating pretty good but were fine.”
The couple was then located inside the gambling area of the casino. They were arrested and each of them is charged with two counts of Felony Child Abuse.
Both were held at the Harrison County Adult Detention Facility with $50,000 bonds.
Their children were brought into the custody of the Mississippi Department of Human Services. Officials say that the kids were fine, though sweaty. The investigation is ongoing, police say.
The director of KidsandCars, Amber Rollins, said that there have been 13 deaths so far nationwide in 2015 caused by heat stroke from being in hot cars, reported The Sun Herald.
“Children’s bodies heat up three times faster than adults,” Rollins said. “Once that door shuts, the car essentially becomes a greenhouse.”
Rollins said that she has seen cases of children that have died while locked in a car when the temperature outside was as low as 60 degrees. “There’s nothing a child can do to escape the heat in that car,” Rollins said.
“They are immediately at extreme risk,” she said, adding that 80 percent of the temperature spike occurs in the first 10 minutes. “Even a short time in that car can turn lethal.”
Photo Credit: Gulfport Police Department / WLOX