3-Year-old left in car for hours dies; mother's friend could face charges

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Police are investigating the death of a 3-year-old boy who was apparently left in a car outside a church for three hours Saturday afternoon.

Officers were called to the Abundant Life Church at 1914 E. Roeser Road at about 2 p.m. Saturday in regard to an injured child.

According to police, the toddler, Hayden Nelson, and his mother spent the night with a 27-year-old friend. Both adults were scheduled to attend choir practice at the church, but Hayden's mother had to be there earlier than her friend.

That friend arrived at the church with Hayden and two other children at about 11 a.m.

"Indications are the suspect was a bit late and she and the other children exited the car," Officers James Holmes wrote in an email to media outlets. "The suspect went immediately into the church for practice."

When the practice ended at about 2 p.m., Hayden's mother realized her child was nowhere to be found.

"Everyone began searching the church for the victim and the suspect went to the parking lot; it was then that she found the child still inside the vehicle and in medical distress," according to Holmes.

The outside temperature was between 95 and 97 degrees, which means the temperature inside the car was much higher.

"It's obvious that the 27-year-old forgot that the child was in the car," Holmes said Monday morning. "She was in a hurry. She had something that she had to do, and she didn't take a minute to make sure."

Hayden was rushed to a local hospital, but doctors could not save him.

"You cannot imagine what this young lady is going through right now, what this family is going through ...," Holmes said.

Police released the woman, whose name has not been released.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office will determine if she will face charges in connection with Hayden's death.

As of Friday, 27 children have died of heatstroke after being left in hot cars this year, according to KidsandCars.org, a national nonprofit group dedicated to keeping kids safe in and around cars.

Hayden is No. 28, but the first in Arizona this year.

According to Amber Rollins of KidsandCars.org, a total of 32 children have died in hot cars in Arizona, making the state fourth in the country for child hot car deaths. Two of those deaths happened last year.

 

Editor's note: Police originally reported that Hayden Nelson was 3 months old. The department later advised media outlets that he was 3 years old.