WICHITA, Kan. – A Kansas man accused of leaving his 10-month-old foster child in a hot car where she died was charged Wednesday with murder.
Seth M. Jackson, 29, of Wichita, made his first court appearance on a charge of with first-degree murder. An alternative count of second-degree murder was also filed.
The girl died Thursday after being left for more than two hours inside a sweltering car. Police say Jackson had apparently forgotten about her until something on TV jogged his memory. Temperatures in Wichita at the time were around 90 degrees.
Jackson’s defence attorney, John Stang, said after the hearing that prosecutors went too far in charging his client with murder and that an involuntary manslaughter charge would have better fit the case.
But Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said the charge was warranted because the child died during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony, aggravated endangering of a child.
Both sides agree the circumstances are entirely different than a widely publicized case in Georgia, where a father is charged with murder and child cruelty charges on suspicion of intentionally leaving the 22-month-old boy in a hot car last month as he went to work. Bennett said the Kansas case is not charged as an intentional murder.
“No one is alleging, it is not charged that he did this intentionally,” Bennett said of the Kansas case. “We are not intimating, as authorities in Georgia have, there was some plot or anything like that. It is a different charging theory and a different charging authority in Kansas than what appears to be in Georgia.”
But Jackson’s defence attorney said he respectfully disagrees with the first-degree murder charge, which carries a life sentence with a possibility of parole after 20 years in Kansas.
“It is still first-degree murder in a situation somebody unintentionally, negligently forgot — made a mistake,” Stang said. “Not minimizing the fact a child passed, but normally you look at first-degree murder in light of a more heinous type of death.”
Investigators determined that the girl was picked up from the baby sitter around 4 p.m. Thursday and brought home, where she was left in a car whose windows were all up. Emergency dispatchers got a call at 6:41 p.m., and the girl was pronounced dead a few minutes later.
Jackson and his partner had been trying to adopt the 10-month-old girl they had cared for nearly all her life. Police have said both foster parents were distraught over what happened.
They also had three other foster children, ages 3, 5 and 18; and had two adopted children, ages 5 and 7. The two younger foster children were visiting other relatives at the time.