Child left in van dies
Police charge two caregivers with manslaughter
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
By NADIA MOHANDESSI
Staff Reporter

A 2-year-old girl died Tuesday afternoon after she had been left in a church day care center's van for more than two hours, authorities said.

Amiyah White was unconscious when her caregivers realized she was missing and found her at 3 p.m. in a van behind Cottage Hill Holy Church of God at 2115 Demetropolis Road, Mobile County District Attorney John M. Tyson Jr. said.

White was taken to the University of South Alabama Women's & Children's hospital, where she later died of heat-related injuries, according to Tyson.

Authorities estimated that the girl had been in the van since about 12:30 p.m.

"The child was left in the van in the heat of the day," Tyson said. "It's dreadfully hot out here now. I can't imagine how hot it was in the van."

The caretakers, Mary Grove, 61, and Avis Betts, 40, were arrested Tuesday evening and charged with manslaughter, according to Officer Eric Gallichant of the Mobile Police Department.

Grove and Betts were taken to the Mobile Metro County Jail, Gallichant said. If convicted, the pair could face a sentence of up to 20 years in jail under Alabama law.

Gallichant said the day care workers realized White was missing 2 hours after Betts, the driver of the van, returned to the church from an outing with 10 to 12 other children.

Gallichant did not say where the children had gone for the outing. The other children were all safely inside the church when White was found, he said.

Police did not say what the temperature was inside the van when the girl was found, but the heat index at 5 p.m. Tuesday was 95 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Mobile.

Gallichant said police investigators or the Department of Forensic Sciences may conduct testing to simulate what temperature the inside of the van could have been while the girl remained inside.

The van, which had the words "Holy Church of God Cottage Hill" painted on the side, was parked against a wooden privacy fence behind the church Tuesday afternoon, invisible from the road.

This is the third time a child has died a heat-related death after being left inside a vehicle in Mobile and Baldwin counties since 1998.

Seven years ago, 3-year-old DeMyreon Lindley died from a heat stroke after he was left strapped in his car seat for 10 hours in a church day care center van in Mobile.

Tchnavian Dailey, the van's driver, was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and sentenced to six months in jail and two years' probation.

In June 2000, Caleb Thomas Orange, a 20-month-old Fair hope toddler was found dead after being trapped in the backseat of a 1993 Pontiac Grand Am parked in his family's yard. His mother, Rebecca Lynn Orange, 28, was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison.

Eleven states have laws against leaving children unsupervised in automobiles, but not Alabama.

In Florida, a person can be fined up to $500 for leaving a child 11 or younger unattended in an automobile. In Missouri, it is a Class C felony punishable by up to one year in jail.