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Parents arrested after baby left in car

Juan Flores. Garcia and Flores are both being held on charges of abandonment of a child resulting in death or great bodily harm.

Juan Flores. Garcia and Flores are both being held on charges of abandonment of a child resulting in death or great bodily harm.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An 8-month-old boy was hospitalized this week after his father, who didn’t want him stuck in a hot car while his mother kept an appointment, left him in a hot car, according to court records.

The state’s most recent case of infantile vehicular heatstroke happened Monday, when the son of Erica Tamra Garcia, 26, and Juan Manuel Flores Sr., 33, was left in a car outside their apartment in the 1100 block of Candelaria NW.

Court records show Garcia, who has a history of heroin use and has been investigated by the Children, Youth and Families Department, had an appointment with her probation officer at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, when temperatures were in the 90s. Her probation officer told her to go for a urine test. On her way to a lab about 12:30 that afternoon, she met Flores at a motor vehicles office near Fourth and Marble NW.

They exchanged vehicles in the parking lot, and Flores, who later admitted to police that he had used heroin that morning, suggested Garcia give the baby to him. The reason: He thought it was too hot for his son to remain in the car with a 14-year-old who was also with Garcia, while Garcia went in for her test, according to court documents.

Garcia left the baby with Flores and went for her test, leaving the lab about 1:40 p.m. From there she went to their apartment. After knocking on the door for several minutes, Flores answered, and another 20 minutes elapsed before it became clear that the infant was with neither parent, according to court records. Garcia ran outside to the car that Flores had been driving and brought the baby back inside the apartment. “(The baby) was having extreme difficulty breathing and was turning blue,” according to court records.

He was taken to University of New Mexico Hospital, but a hospital spokesman on Wednesday could not confirm his admission, nor his condition. As of Tuesday, his condition was reported as critical, according to an Albuquerque Police Department spokeswoman.

Despite his being hospitalized, CYFD has taken custody of the baby, according to CYFD spokesman Henry Varela.

Garcia and Flores were arrested Monday night and charged with abandonment of a child. They are being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Because she was on probation for a previous offense, Garcia was not offered the opportunity to bond out. Flores, meanwhile, is being held on no bond, and will appear in Metro Court this afternoon to get his bond re-set.

Recent cases

While drug use was a possible factor in this case, two previous cases in New Mexico in recent years suggest misunderstandings and forgetfulness – with consequences of the worst kind.

Stephanie Pinon was a 27-year-old mother of four, living off Coors Boulevard and Dellyne NW in July 2010. On July 14, she was taking an older daughter to a conference at the Early Childhood Learning Center at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute about three miles away, and her daughter Jahzel, 2 years old, wanted to come along.

It was previously reported that Piñon agreed, placed her daughter in the family’s blue Chevy Venture van, then forgot that she was there. But Piñon’s lawyer, Donald Kochersberger, said in a telephone interview last month that another family member put the child in the van without Piñon’s being aware that she was there.

Jahzel died of hyperthermia after attempts at CPR failed to revive her. She had been in the vehicle for three hours and eight minutes; officers at the time estimated that temperatures inside the van got as high as 135 degrees.

The next fatal instance of vehicular hyperthermia in New Mexico was two years later, involving Sandra Rodriguez Miramontes, then 19 years old.

She had arrived at Precious Moments Learning Center on a hot August Monday in 2012 with her nephew, 3-year-old Gabriel Torres-Rodriguez. Normally, she brought him inside for child care in one part of the building and went to work in another. On that day, however, he remained strapped in the car for eight hours while she was working, thinking that she had brought him inside and that he was receiving care out of her sight.

Miramontes was charged with child abuse and faces a sentence of 18 years. She is out on $5,000 surety bond and will have a pre-trial conference next month.

Of the cases, “They are both still ongoing in our office,” Kayla Anderson, a District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman, said Wednesday.

In addition to those two, there have been eight similar deaths in New Mexico in the past 16 years, one of which took four lives in Gallup in 1998, when children were apparently playing in a car trunk, according to KidsAndCars.org, a national child safety nonprofit organization that tracks heatstroke and other child vehicular dangers and fatalities.

The others were in Farmington in 1997, in Shiprock in 1999 and 2004, in Clovis in 1998. In two of those cases, only 60 minutes elapsed before a death occurred, according to Janette Fennell, president and founder of the nonprofit.

There have also been at least 12 instances of a child left in a hot car in New Mexico since 2003, but those cases did not result in fatalities, according to the organization’s database.

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