One of the more disgusting news stories this year involves Justin Ross Harris, 33, a married Georgia father charged with messaging nude photos and explicit texts to six females while his 22-month-old son was left to die inside his sweltering locked car.
Harris said he forgot his 22-month old son in his SUV while he was at work at Home Depot.
The prosecutor in the case said Harris wanted to live "a child free life." A county detective supported that statement by telling the court that Harris had taken out two life insurance policies on his young son, one for $2,000 and one for $25,000.
Harris faces child cruelty and felony murder charges. At a court hearing last Thursday, Judge Frank R. Cox denied bond for Harris, calling it "a possible death penalty case."
The hot summer season has just begun and we've already seen cases of children left alone in a vehicle in our own state.
Last week, a day care worker was charged with child-endangerment in Philadelphia after five children, ranging in age from 6 months to 9 years, were left in a car outside a grocery store in the 86-degree heat. Even though the air conditioner was left on in the vehicle, the children became overheated.
Thankfully, a passer-by parked next to the SUV saw the children were unattended and crying. It took at least 20 minutes before the day care worker was tracked down inside the store. The children were hospitalized in stable condition and later released to their parents.
In Pittsburgh, a couple was jailed on child endangerment charges after police say they left the woman's 2-year-old boy outside in a hot, parked car while they drank in a bar. Officers reported the tot slumped over and unresponsive in the car. Both adults were also charged with public drunkenness.
Again, it was a passer-by who called police just after midnight to report seeing the boy in the car. The toddler was hospitalized and expected to recover.
Since 1998 in the U.S., an average of 38 children have died in hot cars. Last year 44 children died, and this year, there have already been 13 deaths.
According to a recent survey published on the SafeKids.org website, 14 percent of parents have intentionally left their children in a parked car while 11 percent of parents admit to forgetting their child in a car. Dads are nearly three times more likely than moms to forget.
A number of these cases prove a lack of common sense or stupidity by the adults. Some parents believe cracking the window will make the car cool enough or that leaving kids unattended "for only a few minutes" while they shop or run errands is ok.
As the summer continues, there are sure to be more child neglect cases and unfortunately, unlike the recent cases in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, we can't always count on a concerned passer-by being there to alert authorities.
By Jim Zbick