Friday, May 24

‘Crying’ and ‘skin was red:’ Dad leaves 3-year-old girl alone in sweltering SUV, West Palm Beach police say

A West Palm Beach father is under arrest after police said he left his 3-year-old daughter alone in a sweltering SUV while he went shopping for Mother’s Day gifts at Sam’s Club.

Raul Rielo-Fernandez, 42, has pleaded not guilty to charges of child neglect without great bodily harm and leaving an unattended child in a vehicle.

According to Rielo-Fernandez’s arrest report, he drove to Sam’s Club, located at 4295 45th Street, at approximately 1 p.m. on May 11 and left his toddler in the back seat of his 2021 Chevrolet SUV while he went inside the store.

The vehicle was not running and the windows were up, police said.

Police said that while Rielo-Fernandez was inside Sam’s Club, another shopper parked near the dad’s SUV and noticed the little girl alone and crying.

That shopper, concerned for the child’s safety, opened the rear passenger door and found the girl “crying, sweating, and skin was red,” the arrest report said. A police officer who was working off-duty at Sam’s Club rushed over to the vehicle to help.

“When our officer got there, she was profusely sweating. She was red, she was flushed, and she was crying,” Mike Jachles, the public information officer for the West Palm Beach Police Department, told WPTV.

Minutes later, after additional police and fire rescue units arrived in the parking lot, Rielo-Fernandez walked out of the store with a “cart full of merchandise,” the report stated. When he saw the law enforcement activity, he ran over to his Chevy.

According to the arrest report, Rielo-Fernandez told a West Palm Beach police officer he drove to Sam’s Club from home and remembered putting his daughter in the SUV, but “totally forgot that she was inside the car” when he got to the store.

Rielo-Fernandez said “he had a lot on his mind for Mother’s Day shopping and just forgot that he left [the child]” inside his car, the report said.

Police said it appears the girl was inside the hot car for approximately 31 minutes. She was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center for further treatment. Her condition is unknown as of Thursday.

“To say that this was a close call is an understatement,” Jachles said.

The arrest report said a thermometer in a West Palm Beach police officer’s car displayed a temperature of 100 degrees outside in the parking lot at the time of the incident.

Rielo-Fernandez was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail Saturday evening and was released on his own recognizance on Sunday afternoon. According to court records, a judge ordered the father to have “no violent contact with the victim.”

Robert Molleda, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Miami, told WPTV on Thursday that our current record-breaking heat can cause the interior temperature of a car to spike dangerously and quickly.

“The temperatures inside of a closed vehicle can reach deadly levels in as little as 10 minutes,” Molleda said.

Molleda said feels-like temperatures this time of year can reach between 105 and 110 degrees.

“Any amount of time inside an enclosed vehicle is very dangerous. So time is very, very imporant,” Molleda said. “So we have to make sure that we always check our vehicles before we step out. Make sure we’re not leaving kids or pets behind.”

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