Mom charged for leaving baby in car overnight in winter


February 15, 2008


Madison, WI


A Madison mother whose 4-month-old son died after she kept him in a car overnight in February was charged today with child neglect leading to death.

Tywalla Johnson, 22, had left her child in the care of the boy's paternal grandmother that night and went out drinking with friends, the criminal complaint filed today says.

In the early morning hours of Feb. 15, she told police, she picked up the boy and left the grandmother's house, but decided she was too drunk to drive so parked the car and left it running for the next four hours.

When she took the baby to his maternal grandmother's house the following morning the baby was listless and turning blue, the complaint says, and the little boy died later that day.

Dr. Robert Huntington, the Madison pathologist who performed the autopsy, said it did not appear the baby died from hypothermia because the car was warm and the baby covered with blankets. But Huntington said the child died from post cardiac arrest with multiple systems failure. Huntington told detectives that babies have difficulty regulating their body temperature and that could lead to systems failure.

Police determined that temperatures that night ranged from 13 degrees at 1 a.m. to 6 degrees at 6 a.m., but the wind chill was as low as -17 degrees at around 5:30 that morning.

Johnson had a blood alcohol content of 0.063 when tested later that morning and that would have translated into a blood alcohol content of 0.18 when she picked up the baby from his grandmother's house at 1:30 a.m., according to calculations by the State Crime Laboratory.

Johnson was scheduled for a court appearance today but did not show, apparently because of confusion, and her initial appearance is likely to be held Thursday morning, court officials said. She faces up to 25 years of prison and extended supervision time if convicted.