Child left in hot car dies this afternoon

The Arizona Republic

Jul. 30, 2003 08:10 PM


An 18-month-old girl died in the care of her babysitter after being left inside a car for an undetermined amount of time Wednesday afternoon.


Paramedics arrived at the Mesa house at about 3:15 p.m. and were greeted by the hysterical baby sitter, a 33-year-old friend of the baby's family who had been caring for her since she was born.


Gisele Wetzel was so frantic that police were unable to get a coherent statement from her.


Wetzel, who was caring for at least two other children, as well as two of her own, could face criminal charges, said Mesa Detective Tim Gaffney.



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Probe into death of toddler in van may take 2 weeks

The Arizona Republic

Aug. 1, 2003 12:00 AM


It could be two weeks before an investigation into the death of a 17-month-old girl

accidentally left in a van in Mesa's midafternoon heat is complete, police said Thursday.


An autopsy on Taylin E. Lee, who died Wednesday, is scheduled for today.


Bill Fitzgerald, spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's office, said the case had not yet been submitted to the office.


He said delays for charges in cases like these are routine because prosecutors wait until the exact circumstances of death can be determined.


The child died after being left in the van at the home of her baby-sitter, Gisele Wetzel. A man at the Wetzels' home Thursday said the 33-year-old mother of two was not answering questions. She has not been arrested.


A neighbor, Bonnie Cope, said she often saw Wetzel towing kids back and forth in a wagon to Crismon Elementary School, just a few blocks away.


Cope, 42, said Wetzel's husband, Robert, coaches his oldest daughter's softball team, and the parents often attend their youngest daughter's gymnastics practices.


"They are so involved in their girls' lives that we don't see them much," she said.


According to police reports, Wetzel left Taylin in a closed van for about an hour Wednesday afternoon when the temperature was in the mid-90s.


She had returned to her home in the 1100 block of West Madero Avenue from Kiwanis Park in Tempe, where she had dropped off her own children.


Three of the four children in her care got out of the van and went inside.  She forgot Taylin, leaving her strapped in her car seat, said Detective Tim Gaffney of the Mesa Police.


Following a frantic 911 call an hour later, after she found the baby unconscious and not breathing, Wetzel volunteered to be interrogated at the police department. Afterward, she was allowed to leave, Gaffney said.


He said charges of negligent homicide could be recommended.  If convicted on that charge, she could face a maximum prison term of 3 3/4 years.


Report released on tot left in van


The Arizona Republic

Aug. 13, 2003 12:00 AM


MESA - Baby-sitter Gisele Wetzel helped a child go to the bathroom, set up another child in a bedroom watching television, talked on the phone and sent a child home with his mother. All the while forgetting the toddler she'd left in her van, according to police.


It was a fatal mistake.


Taylin Lee, 18 months, died July 30 despite Wetzel's attempts to revive her, according to a Mesa police preliminary report released Tuesday.


"I think she suffocated in her vomit," Wetzel told a Mesa 911 operator, according to a transcript of the call.


The girl had been in the van more than an hour, discovered about 3:40 p.m on a day that reached 97 degrees in the Valley. The interior of the van would have been well over 100 degrees.


Wetzel, 33, told the operator that the girl was turning blue, and the operator coached Wetzel on how to administer CPR.


When Mesa Fire Department paramedics arrived, they took over and transported Taylin to Banner Desert Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 4:20 p.m.


The medical examiner ruled the death an accident and said the cause was "consistent with hyperthermia."


Mesa police are still investigating Taylin's death.


"We'll wait until the investigation is complete before requesting any possible charges from the County Attorney's Office," Mesa police Detective Tim Gaffney said.


Wetzel cared for Taylin, her sister and a 5-year-old boy in her Mesa home. She had taken those three, her two children and their friend to Kiwanis Park, where she left her children and their friend.


When Wetzel drove back to her house, the boy needed help going to the bathroom, she told police.


"Gisele then stated that her phone rang and she answered the phone," the report says.


The boy's mother picked him up at 3:30, but "did not notice anything suspicious," according to the report.


About 10 minutes later, Wetzel "realized that she had left Taylin outside unattended," the report states.