Two Texas children were found dead on May 26 after being locked in a car when outside temperatures reached 96 degrees.
Parker County Sheriff's Capt. Mark Arnett says a mother became worried when she noticed her 2-year-old daughter and 16-month-old son went missing from the back room of her home. KXAS reports that the mother went to look for her children outside, where she found them trapped inside her car.
"She thought maybe they were playing hide-and-seek or something," said Arnett. "So she started searching the house. When she didn't find them, she started searching the property, and that's when she found them located in the car."
She reports that one of her children was holding her cellphone and car keys.
The car was locked so the mother broke the window. But she was too late and the two young children, later identified as Juliet and Cavanaugh Ramirez, had already died from the oppressive heat.
Authorities are questioning the mother's story and are skeptical that two toddlers could get into a car and lock it all on their own.
"The question is, can a 2-year-old open a car door and a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old climb inside and lock it," said Arnett. "In the course of the investigation, if charges are warranted, I'm sure the district attorney's office will bring them."
The car has been impounded and is being analyzed.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children are less able to regulate their internal body temperature than adults and are more susceptible to the effects of heatstroke. Children left in a hot car without any air conditioning can die of heatstroke quickly. When outside temperatures reach 80 degrees, the inside of a car can hit fatal temperatures of 110 degrees in 20 minutes.
KXAS reports that at the approximate time of death, the outside temperature was close to 96 degrees.
"Everybody's distraught, it's just horrible," said relative Raymond Ramirez. "Being so young, you don't have any words."
Arnett says the incident will require a "lengthy" investigation to uncover how exactly the children entered and locked the car on their own.
The investigation will be a joint effort between Parker County Sheriff's Office and the Texas Rangers, according to CNN.
"This case is in the early stages of the investigation," said Sheriff Larry Fowler in a news release. "Any comment regarding this case at this time would be an assumption until all of the facts are gathered."