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Raleigh, NC

N.C. boy dies in hot car
11-month-old was alone two hours

By JOSH SHAFFER, Staff Writer

An 11-month-old boy died Friday in Rocky Mount after his mother forgot him in the back of their parked car, then frantically tried to rescue him with CPR after a passer-by spotted the infant still buckled in his safety seat, family and police said.
Logan Molden spent about two hours outside his mother's insurance office before police arrived at 11:30 a.m., when the temperature in Rocky Mount had reached 86 degrees. He was later pronounced dead at Nash General Hospital.

"This is just a horrible, horrible, terrible, terrible accident," Bonnie Hense, the boy's grandmother, said Friday night in a telephone interview from the family home in Nashville. "She would never hurt him. Never, ever, ever. She was so protective of him. If he had a little sniffle, she would take him to the doctor.''

The mother, Leslee Wood, 24, had driven to work in Rocky Mount at Parker & Davis Insurance Agency, but it wasn't a trip she took every day. She might work in Bailey or any number of towns, said Karl Hense, her stepfather. Sometimes, her mother might drive Logan to day care.

"She was just so preoccupied and stressed about her work," Bonnie Hense said. "She doesn't understand how she could let it happen. She loved him so much."

A customer heading into the South Church Street office noticed the boy in the car with the windows up, Rocky Mount Police Capt. Larry Wells said. When the customer alerted the staff, Wood realized her mistake and ran outside.

"She was in shock," Wells said.

The investigation is continuing and the Nash County District Attorney's Office will make a decision about filing charges, police Sgt. Carl Revis said.

18 deaths this year

Death from heatstroke in parked cars is a growing problem, said Jan Null, a meteorology professor at San Francisco State University who compiles figures on a Web site called Golden Gate Weather Services. Eighteen children have died in parked cars so far this year, he said, and 42 died in 2003.

Another infant in Inverness, Fla., died in her father's car Friday after he mistakenly left her there for hours outside his office, The Associated Press reported.

The numbers started to rise especially in the early 1990s, about the time that air bags were introduced. There are no statistics to prove it, but Null guesses that the air bags made parents shift safety seats to the backs of their cars, where children are easier to forget.

Despite the risk, he said, there is no government agency that tracks heatstroke in cars. His records count 213 such deaths since 1998.

"Let me put this in perspective," he said. "You know how many people have died of SARS in the United States? None."

A year and a half ago, police in Kings Mountain charged a man with misdemeanor child abuse after he allegedly left his two infant children inside a car while he played video poker for five hours. It was New Year's Eve, and the temperature fell into the upper 30s.

In 2002, a volunteer driver for a Wake County day-care center told police that he forgot to take a 2-year-old girl out of a van when they returned to the church near Wake Forest. The girl died of heat stroke after spending seven hours in her safety seat, but prosecutors decided against filing charges, calling the girl's death a fatal accident.

In Nashville, for Wood, knowing Logan's death was an accident doesn't make it any easier to accept, Bonnie Hense said. She wonders what would have happened if the day care had called and asked why the boy had not yet arrived. There are, she said, a thousand what-ifs.

(News researcher Toby Lyles contributed to this report.)

Staff writer Josh Shaffer can be reached at 829-4818 or jshaffer@newsobserver.com.
News researcher Toby Lyles contributed to this report.