Grandfather arrested in death of child left in hot car

07/23/2014 5:50 PM

07/23/2014 5:51 PM

A North Richland Hills grandfather was arrested Wednesday, accused of leaving his 20-month-old granddaughter for about eight hours in a hot car where she died of heatstroke.

James M. Hollingsworth, 59, surrendered to authorities Wednesday morning and was released after posting $5,000 bail.

He was supposed to drop the child off at a day-care center about 7:30 a.m. April 22 but forgot, police said.

Hollingsworth faces a charge of injury to a child by omission, his attorney said Wednesday.

“We are still investigating,” attorney Lex Johnston of Hurst said. “We don’t believe it will end up a criminal matter. It was a terrible tragedy for everyone involved.”

Last week, the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office ruled that Aurora Aryana Hollingsworth died of heatstroke after being left in a car and ruled the death an accident.

The high temperature at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport on April 22 was 84.

“When our investigator arrived on the scene, it was 94 degrees in the vehicle,” Linda Anderson, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office, said previously.

Aurora’s was at least the 17th heatstroke death of a child in a vehicle this year, said Jan Null, who keeps such statistics as a certified consulting meteorologist at San Francisco State University.

Null, who operates the Heatstroke Deaths of Children in Vehicles website, said three deaths occurred in Texas.

Aurora’s death shows that “it does not have to be a hot Texas day” for a child to have a heatstroke in a vehicle, Null said in an interview from San Francisco.

Studies show that on average, temperatures inside a vehicle can increase by 19 degrees in 10 minutes and 34 degrees in 30 minutes.

Child Protective Services investigators are looking into the case. Aurora had three older siblings ages 6, 8 and 11 as of April, and they are still in the home, CPS spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said Wednesday in an email.

The family has no history with the agency, Gonzales has said.

A lapse of memory

On the morning of April 22, Hollingsworth drove his daughter to work and was then to take Aurora to her day-care center at 7:30 a.m., Keith Bauman, a North Richland Hills police investigator, said in a news release Wednesday.

“Mr. Hollingsworth dropped off his daughter, returned to his residence and went inside, forgetting to drop off Aurora at day-care, leaving her inside his vehicle,” Bauman said.

In 51 percent of the heatstroke death cases from 1998 to 2013, the caregiver forgot about the child, Null said.

“Somehow, there is a lapse in memory,” Null said.

At 3:30 p.m., Hollingsworth’s daughter called and asked him to pick up her 11-year-old son from school because he had missed his bus and was walking home.

Hollingsworth found the boy, let him in the car and started driving home, police said.

At some point, the boy told Hollingsworth that something was wrong with Aurora.

When officers responded to a 911 call, they found her dead in a child restraint seat. She was pronounced dead at 4:06 p.m. in the 7500 block of Bursey Road.

Staff writer Lee Williams contributed to this report.

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