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No charges for Utah mom whose child died in hot car

First Published Aug 27 2014 02:19PM      Last Updated Aug 27 2014 10:19 pm

The Washington County attorney announced Wednesday that he will not be filing file criminal charges against a Hurricane mother who left her 11-month-old daughter inside a hot car last month.

Skyah Suwyn died Aug. 1, after her mother, April Suwyn, inadvertently left the infant in the car for more than an hour while temperatures reached the 80s.

Prosecutors determined the evidence showed that "rather than abandoning Skyah, [the mother] acted under the erroneous belief that Skyah was napping safely in her bedroom crib," according to a letter from Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap to Hurricane’s police chief. "Because the purpose of the criminal justice system is to penalize a conscious wrongdoer, justice will not be served prosecuting April Suwyn, because she was not blameworthy of mind."

Belnap wrote that the woman had an "unconscious lapse of awareness" when she left her child in the car — which is very different from making a conscious choice to leave the infant there.

"The evidence," Belnap added, "shows that April was a loving, thoughtful caregiver who was operating under lack of sleep, changed routine, and stress."

Belnap detailed the events leading to the death as follows:

During the week leading up to Aug. 1, Skyah had been teething and neither mother nor child had been getting much sleep.

April also had not been feeling well for several days and the night before, and she and her daughter woke up in the early hours of the night and played together for several hours.

The day of Aug. 1, the mother had a standing nail appointment with a neighbor. Her usual routine was to take her two boys, ages 3 and 5, to a baby sitter and leave Skyah with her sister, who was living in the home.

But that day there was no one to watch Skyah, so shortly after 10:30 a.m., the mother put her in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the car, along with the boys, and headed to the baby sitter’s home, who lives about five minutes away.

After dropping off the boys, the mother drove home, but had to park on an adjacent street because of street construction in front of her home.

As she exited her car, her attention was diverted by a construction worker, who said something to her about the parking.

The mother then walked around the front of the car and headed home.

She hurried inside because she needed to use the bathroom, then heard her neighbor arrive for the nail appointment.

The mother left the bathroom and went directly to the room where she does nails and where the neighbor was waiting.

The appointment lasted about an hour.

"April said the entire time she was doing the neighbor’s nails, April believed that Skyah was downstairs sleeping in her crib because that was her normal routine," Belnap wrote.

Because the mother had not heard Skyah cry or make any noise, she believed the child was still sleeping. So when the nail appointment ended, the mother decided to leave Skyah sleeping while she picked up her boys.



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