Baby dies in car

Aunt says she forgot 4-month-old girl


CITRONELLE - A 4-month-old girl died after being left in a closed car in this northwest Citrus County community for nearly four hours Wednesday, when the child's aunt apparently forgot the baby was strapped in a car seat.


The baby, Laurel Jurban, was pronounced dead at Seven Rivers Hospital in Crystal River, said Citrus County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Gail Tierney.


According to Tierney, the child's aunt, Rebecca Jurban, 24, had driven the baby's mother, Candice Johnson, 23, to Central Florida Community College's Ocala campus, and dropped off Johnson.


When Jurban returned home to 7873 W. Badger Lane around 9 a.m., she left the child in the closed 2000 Ford Focus two-door hatchback and went inside. Jurban changed clothes, worked on a computer and took a nap, Tierney said.


"The child was in a car seat in the back seat behind the driver," Tierney said. "She alleges she simply forgot the child was in the car."


Shortly before 1 p.m., Jurban's brother, Thomas Jurban Jr. the baby's father awoke and asked Rebecca Jurban where the infant was.


At that point, both ran to the car and found the baby, then called 911. Thomas Jurban performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until rescue workers arrived.


Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy hasn't decided whether Rebecca Jurban will face criminal charges, Tierney said.


"Right now, he's looking at it as a suspicious incident. I know he had plans to talk to the State Attorney's Office about it," she said.


Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway said his office has been contacted, but that it was too early to tell whether criminal charges would be filed.


An autopsy is scheduled today to determine the cause of death.


Data from the National Weather Service indicated the temperature at Ocala International Airport rose from 81 degrees at 9 a.m. to a peak of 90 degrees by 1 p.m. Wednesday. Preliminary tests by Citrus sheriff's office investigators showed the inside temperature of the Focus reached 130 to 150 degrees Wednesday afternoon.


Those readings were taken around 3 p.m., Tierney noted.


"It could possibly have been even hotter in the car," she said.


Ocala police assisted Citrus deputies in searching for Johnson on the CFCC campus. Once Johnson was located, deputies drove her from Ocala to Seven Rivers Hospital. The baby was pronounced dead before she arrived, Tierney said.


CFCC records do not indicate Johnson was enrolled as a student, said Don Hunt, the college's vice president of student affairs. However, if Johnson applied for admission Wednesday, her name would not have shown up in computer records yet, he added.


Rebecca Jurban was distraught, Tierney said.


"She was extraordinarily upset, as you might expect, over the whole thing," she said.


Amy Fisher, a neighbor, said she was sitting in her house when she heard a car pull in near her driveway. Fisher said she thought someone was having medical problems when she saw the fire rescue truck in her neighbor's yard.


But a few hours later, when she saw the police cars and the yellow tape surrounding the family's home, she knew something else was wrong, Fisher said


"My heart fell to my feet," said Fisher, whose 4-year-old son, Anthony, occasionally played with the couple's 3-year-old son, Tommy. "I can't understand how you could forget that child.


"I've heard about stuff like this on the news," she said. "Now, it's right next door."


Charlie Ketchen, 41, who lives a few houses down from the family couldn't believe it.


"It's a shame, man," Ketchen said. "I see them outside playing with their kids all the time. This is the first time I've ever seen any incidents down here."


David Rittenberg, 24, agreed. He said he's lived near the family for eight years and he's never seen anything wrong.


"It's sickening," he added.