Richmond Times-Dispatch
Aug 18, 2004

Baby in van dies; father charged

A Williamsburg man was charged with a felony last night in the death of his 8-month-old son, who allegedly was left unattended in a van at a South Richmond shopping center.

It marked the second time in two weeks that Richmond-area authorities were called to investigate the death of a child who appeared to have been left alone in a vehicle. A 3-year-old Hanover County girl died of heat stroke Aug. 3 after her father left her for several hours in a sport utility vehicle parked at a church, authorities said.

In the latest case, Gary B. Williams, 30, was charged late last night with a single count of felony child abuse and neglect. He was being held without bond pending an appearance today in Richmond Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, authorities said.

The investigation into the boy's death began in Henrico County after Williams spotted a Henrico police officer at about 12:20 p.m. in the 1500 block of Parham Road and asked for assistance for his son, who was in a car seat in the van.

The officer called for emergency medical help and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Henrico police said. The infant, whose name was not available late last night, was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Henrico police said.

An autopsy was to be performed to determine the cause of death.

The father told Henrico police that while he was driving on Parham, he noticed that his son had stopped breathing.

A source told The Times-Dispatch that the child had been left unattended earlier in a parking lot at a South Richmond shopping center.

The father told Henrico police that he had brought the child from the family's home in Williamsburg to a work site in Richmond, police said. He works for a carpet company, Henrico police said.

Richmond police released no information about the case yesterday except to say in an e-mail from department spokeswoman Cynthia L. Price that Richmond and Henrico police were investigating the death of an 8-month-old. City police were notified of the child's death at 4:15 p.m., according to the e-mail.

"Because we are in the preliminary stages of the investigation, we don't have any details to release at this time," Price's 6 p.m. e-mail said. She added that city police "expect to have more" by today.

In the Aug. 3 case in Hanover, Kristen Grote, 3, was allegedly left unattended for several hours by her father, Doug Grote, in a sport utility vehicle at Cool Spring Baptist Church in Mechanicsville.

Grote, the church's associate pastor, has not been charged in his daughter's death. However, Hanover Commonwealth's Attorney Kirby H. Porter said last week that he was going to present the case to a grand jury.

Porter and Hanover Sheriff V. Stuart Cook have been at odds over the Hanover sheriff's office's handling of the case.

Porter faulted Cook for his office's failure to notify Porter's office and Hanover Child Protective Services of the child's death until the next day.

Cook countered that his office handled the case "professionally, objectively and thoroughly" and had followed proper procedures in its investigation.