Texas leads nation in deaths of children left in cars


The Brownsville Herald

BROWNSVILLE, Sept. 16 — The death of an abandoned baby in Brownsville

on Sunday stretches the state’s lead in a deadly tally.

And the Rio Grande Valley leads the state this year for children who have died

while alone in hot cars.

“Children are never safe when left alone, not even for a minute, said Tammy

Russell, cofounder of 4 R Kids’ Sake, a California-based nonprofit organization

aimed at keeping children from dying while left alone in vehicles.

“You can’t just think that it will never happen to you. It happens to very loving


Texas’ total now stands at 10 after the death of 1-year-old Destiny Castillo, who

was left alone in a 2001 Ford Explorer on Santa Paula street for a period of time

that might have stretched between late Saturday night and noon Sunday, Brownsville Police Cmdr. Abraham Delgado explained.

Florida is the next highest with five deaths this year.

Castillo’s death brings the nation’s number up to 39, records show on the 4 R Kids’ Sake database.

A $35,000 bond was set on Monday for parents Luis Ernesto Castillo Jr., 24, and

San Juana Garcia, 22, each charged with the second-degree felony of abandoning

and endangering a child, Delgado said.

The commander said the parents had left their two other children in the care of

their paternal grandparents Saturday night.

The couple might have taken the baby with them to a party before leaving her alone in the car, Delgado said.

In July, a 2-month-old Harlingen baby died in a car while the mother filled out a

job application at a Target store.

And in August, an 18 month-old died in a hot car south of McAllen.

The three Rio Grande Valley deaths are three too-many, said Miriam Ybarra, the

Cameron County Director of Child Protective Services.

“When people are walking into the parking lot, be aware. The community is responsible, and we need to say this is the last time we will let a child die unattended,” she said.

Two other cases of child endangerment surfaced in Brownsville this weekend.

A 4-year-old boy was found wandering near his home at Wild Rose Lane at 2:10

a.m. Sunday. Police then found his 2-year-old sister also unattended at home.

The mother, 25 year-old Carmen DelaHoz, was charged with two counts of endangerment with bonds of $2,000 and $5,000.

The children were reported to have been left in the care of neighbor Leticia Salinas, 20, who also faces the same charges.

Onecimo Lopez, 25, is also charged with two counts of endangerment after his

4-year-old son was found wandering alone on Garza Street Saturday afternoon.

Anyone who sees a case of abandonment or endangerment should call the Brownsville Police Department at 548-7000 or dial 911, Delgado said.