Kevin Kelly left his beloved 21-month-old daughter in a sweltering van for seven hours, where she died. What is the appropriate punishment for a doting parent responsible for his child’s death, asks the Associated Press? A judge spared Kelly a lengthy term in prison. Still, it is a question that is asked dozens of times each year. Since the mid-1990s, the number of children who died of heat exhaustion inside vehicles has risen dramatically, totaling around 340 in the past 10 years.
Ironically, one reason is a change drivers made to protect children after juvenile air-bag deaths peaked in 1995: They put them in the back seat, where they are more easily forgotten. An Associated Press analysis of more than 310 such deaths in the past 10 years found that prosecutions and penalties vary widely, depending in many cases on where the death occurred and who left the child to die: parent or caregiver, mother or father: Mothers are treated much more harshly than fathers. While mothers and fathers are charged and convicted at about the same rates, mothers are 26 percent more likely to do time. Their median sentence is two years longer than that received by fathers. Charges are filed in half of all cases, even when a child was left unintentionally. July is by far the deadliest month, accounting for nearly a quarter of the total.