Ken Padowitz is a former Broward homicide prosecutor who has represented clients charged in hot-car deaths. Padowitz, who isn’t involved in the Pembroke Pines case, said these are “horrible tragedies, no matter how you look at it. There are no winners in these situations.”
By Anne Geggis and Juan Ortega South Florida Sun Sentinel
October 4, 2018
A woman turned herself in to police Wednesday afternoon to face a felony charge in the death of her 17-month-old son, who police say was left in a car for eight and a half hours in July.
Emily Bird, 34, the mom of Eli Bird, was taken into custody on one count of aggravated manslaughter of a child, a first-degree felony, police said. She walked into the police station late Wednesday, a dark hoodie and her hair hanging over her face.
“Even though it was done without malice, her actions led to the death of an individual, which would be her child,” said Amanda Conwell, spokeswoman for the Pembroke Pines police.
KidsAndCars.org, a child safety organization, has tracked more than 800 children who’ve died in hot cars since 1990. Janette Fennell, the nonprofit’s president and founder, said there is wide variance in whether child car-death cases result in charges, even when the circumstances are exactly the same.
“Some of them will be charged, and others won’t be charged at all,” Fennell said. “It’s very unfortunate that basically the same set of circumstances is treated so differently.”
In the Pembroke Pines case, Bird drove to work on July 13, a Friday, parked in the 2200 block of North University Drive near Memorial Hospital Pembroke and left the boy in a child safety car seat, police said. The child was left in a Honda Odyssey in a parking lot from 8:12 a.m. until 4:45 p.m, police said.
Paramedics attempted CPR but were unable to get the boy breathing again. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Police haven’t elaborated on why Bird was charged, referring calls to the Broward prosecutors’ office. A spokeswoman for the State Attorney’s Office could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.
Bird, a nurse, is also the mother of another child and lives in Fort Lauderdale. Bird’s attorney, Lawrence Hashish, said his client is distraught at what has unfolded. “I’m glad she has a good support team,” Hashish said. “No one can imagine the pain she is enduring unless they have lost a child.”
Hashish said he was “shocked” to hear that a warrant for her arrest was issued Wednesday. “This is definitely a tragic accident,” Hashish said. “I was surprised they charged her, knowing the facts of the case.”
On Wednesday, Bird walked into the Pembroke Pines police station shortly after 4:15 p.m., with a man who said he was her father, by her side. Two women waited in the white Toyota SUV she had emerged from as Bird and her father walked in, accompanied by her attorney.
Ken Padowitz is a former Broward homicide prosecutor who has represented clients charged in hot-car deaths. Padowitz, who isn’t involved in the Pembroke Pines case, said these are “horrible tragedies, no matter how you look at it. There are no winners in these situations.” Prosecutors must look at the evidence — and if defendants are found guilty, what is “an appropriate sentence under the circumstances where they’ve lost a child.”
Pembroke Pines police have reminded parents to be vigilant when it comes to their kids in cars. “Members of our community are reminded that leaving a child inside a car is a yearlong hazard, but it is especially deadly during the summer months when temperatures can climb above 100 degrees within minutes,” the agency said in a statement. “Always double check your vehicle after you park for loved ones or pets.”
2018 has been one of the worst years for children dying in hot cars, according to KidsAndCars.org. This year, 48 children have died in hot cars across the country, five of them in Florida. The worst year was 2010 with 49 deaths.
Two Florida children, a 1-year-old girl in Sanford and a 4-year-old boy in Orange County, died in separate incidents on Friday. The mother of the 1-year-old has been charged, but no one has been charged in the case involving the boy.