Florida couple arrested after child’s ‘torturous death’ in car seat overnight

A Florida couple has been charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child after police said the husband and wife left their toddler in a car overnight following a 4 July celebration.

Joel and Jazmine Rondon drove their three children – all under the age of 9 – to the party, and the family didn’t return home until 3am the next morning, according to the Polk County sheriff’s office.

According to an arrest affidavit obtained by The Independent, Ms Rondon remarked that the toddler was sleeping and was “so quiet” that she told her husband that “she forgot the victim was in the back seat during the drive home.”

While unloading the car, Mrs Rondon told her husband to bring the 18-month-old toddler inside the house while she brought in the two other kids. Mr Rondon noticed that one of the car doors was open at the time he went inside; when he returned, all of the doors were closed, so he assumed his wife brought the toddler inside.

The couple went to sleep without checking the car again.

At 11am the next morning, Mr Rondon asked one of the other children to check on the toddler in her room; they reported that she wasn’t there, prompting Mr Rondon to search the house for her. Panicked, he went to the car to find the child still strapped into her car seat in a car that was fully exposed to the sun.

He and his wife drove the toddler to the hospital. Despite conducting “life-saving measures” to cool her down from a high fever, according to Sheriff Grady Judd, she died of hypothermia.

“This child has suffered a torturous death,” the sheriff said at a news conference. The autopsy report ruled the death a homicide.

During a recorded interview at the hospital, according to the affidavit, Mr Rondon said “the incident was his fault because he did not take the victim out of the car when Jazmine asked him to.” Ms Rondon said “she felt guilty” about the sequence of events and “she should have checked on the victim.”

The parents were given drug screens later that day. Mr Rondon tested positive for meth, marijuana and alcohol, while Mrs Rondon tested positive for marijuana and alcohol. The couple was taken into custody on Thursday.

The 33-year-old Mr Rondon has a criminal history dating back to 2003.

Sheriff Judd called the incident “one of the most horrible, tragic deaths that we’ve seen in a long time.”

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