Son dies after 9 hours in car

Thursday, April 06, 2006

AIKEN - After leaving her 15-month-old son in her car for nine hours and then finding him lifeless, a North Augusta woman drove around for nearly two hours before calling police, authorities said Wednesday.

Karla N. Edwards, 35, left her son in her Mitsubishi Lancer at 7 a.m. Tuesday when she went to work at Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse on Whiskey Road, said Lt. Michael Frank, the spokesman for the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.

She found Zachary D. Frison "unresponsive" when she left work at 4 p.m., he said, but didn't call for help until 5:41 p.m.

"We suspect that she drove around for a time trying to decide what to do," Lt. Frank said.

Investigators haven't been able to establish whether the child was confined to his car seat all day, but preliminary autopsy results show that he died of dehydration, Lt. Frank said.

Mrs. Edwards, of the 500 block of Martintown Road in North Augusta, spent the night in police custody and was formally charged with homicide by child abuse Wednesday afternoon.

She is scheduled to appear for a bond hearing at 10 a.m. today.

Lt. Frank said she left the Lowe's parking lot in Aiken and ended up at a Hardee's restaurant in Clearwater, where she called police. When the deputy arrived two minutes later, he began CPR on the boy, who was "very hot to the touch" and sweaty, according to a sheriff's report.

Lt. Frank said he could not discuss what Mrs. Edwards told investigators.

However, according to the responding deputy's report, Mrs. Edwards said the boy began screaming while she was in Aiken, so she turned the radio up.

When she got to a grocery store in Clearwater, she told the deputy, she saw that Zachary wasn't breathing and went to the Hardee's to call for help.

Lt. Frank said investigators were suspicious of Mrs. Edwards' statements.

"The information we were receiving was not consistent with the evidence," he said.

A co-worker of Mrs. Edwards, who did not wish to be identified, said that she seemed to be having family problems over the past few weeks and was once sent home in tears. He also said she had been having trouble getting a baby sitter.

"I can't believe something like that happened," he said.

Lowe's spokeswoman Chris Ahearn confirmed that Mrs. Edwards has worked for the chain for about nine years. She said the company could not comment further.