Portsmouth police: Dad apparently forgot baby in car

By Patrick Wilson
The Virginian-Pilot
July 17, 2012

The father of an infant found dead in a minivan Friday apparently forgot to drop the child off in the morning, drove to work and realized the baby was still in the vehicle only after arriving at a child-care center to pick him up, police said Monday.

Police have not filed any charges but are discussing the case with prosecutors.

"We're assuming it's a tragic accident, but we're reviewing the facts to make sure we do our due diligence," said Bill Prince, a spokesman for Commonwealth's Attorney Earle C. Mobley.

Police identified the baby as 5-month-old Jeremy Rivera. They would not release the father's name.

They said the father left his home in Suffolk at about 9:30 a.m. and arrived at his job in Portsmouth at about 10 a.m. Around 3 p.m., he got in his minivan and drove to Children's Harbor, a child care center on London Street, to pick up his baby.

He got out of the van and walked toward the day care, then realized what had happened and discovered the baby unconscious in his car seat.

A witness, Sharon Salyer, told The Virginian-Pilot that she saw the father hold the baby to his chest and cry, "My baby!" She and others tried to resuscitate the child.

The baby's body was taken to the medical examiner's office in Norfolk for an autopsy. A cause of death has not been determined, said Glenn McBride, a spokesman for the medical examiner's office.

Toni Cacace-Beshears, chief executive officer of Children's Harbor day cares, said staff at the London Street center were shaken by what happened. "They had bonded with this child," she said.

They sent condolences to the family. "We hope that the community will keep the family in their thoughts and prayers," she said.

Children's Harbor has a policy of calling parents if three days go by and they do not bring their child to the center, she said. In light of the death, she said, they are reviewing whether to make such a call on the first day a child does not arrive.

If Jeremy's death was caused by heat stroke, he will be the 12th child to die in the United States this year after being left in a vehicle, according to research by San Francisco State University. Thirty-three such deaths were reported in 2011.

Since 1998, a researcher has found 538 such deaths. In more than half of the cases, parents or caregivers forgot the child was in the car. In 30 percent, a child was playing unattended in a vehicle, and in 17 percent, someone intentionally left a child in the vehicle. Circumstances in some cases are unknown.

A similar case in Portsmouth in July 2008 did not result in criminal charges. A man accidentally left his 2-year-old son strapped in a safety seat in the back of an SUV after arriving home. The father, who did not usually drive the boy home, had picked up the boy and driven home after a work day that began at 4:30 a.m. He went inside the house and fell asleep.