Couple charged in death of baby left in hot vehicle

By Kate Jacobson, Sun Sentinel
5:33 p.m. EDT, April 11, 2014

A Palm Beach County couple was arrested Thursday in the June death of their 8-month-old child, who was left in a hot SUV, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

The Sheriff's Office said Ramphy and Jessica Almonte, who live near West Palm Beach, left their 8-month-old daughter, Sofia, in their SUV in their driveway for almost an hour in June after the family went grocery shopping.

The couple ran errands and went grocery shopping on June 14 with their three children. Jessica Almonte, 32, told deputies the family left a Publix, located at 6790 Forest Hill Blvd. in Greenacres, and she began talking on the phone with her mother-in-law.

She told deputies she, her husband and her two eldest children got out of the SUV and unloaded the groceries, according to an arrest report. She assumed Ramphy Almonte, 36, had taken Sofia out of her car seat and taken her into the house, according to the report.

Jessica Almonte continued to talk to her mother-in-law on the phone, while her husband started doing housework outside, according to the report. Her oldest children remained inside with her.

She told deputies she thought her husband had placed Sofia in a baby swing located in the family room on the first floor of the house.

After talking to her mother-in-law for a while, she decided she was going to take her children to the pool and went in to check on Sofia, whom she thought was in the swing, deputies said. When she saw Sofia wasn't there, she began screaming and ran out to the SUV parked in the driveway, according to the report.

Ramphy Almonte came around the side of the house where he was cutting tiles, and Jessica Almonte said she grabbed Sofia out of the SUV and took her inside, deputies said. Jessica Almonte said Sofia was not responsive and had trouble breathing, according to the report.

The couple tried to cool the baby off with cold water, and Ramphy Almonte brought in a fan from the living room, according to the report. Deputies said Jessica Almonte told them that at the time, she did not think Sofia's injuries were serious enough to call 911.

When Jessica Almonte saw Sofia was not getting better, she told her husband to call 911, according to the report.

At the time of the incident, deputies said they were giving the case to the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office to determine whether the couple should be charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child.

On Thursday, the couple was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail on charges of leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle. Both were released on Friday.

kjacobson@tribune.com, 561-243-6547 or Twitter @katejacobson