Baby Left In Hot Car Leads to Mother's Arrest

July 6, 2007 - Posted at 6:32 p.m. CDT

PARAGOULD-"A few more minutes could have been the difference in this child being alive and not being alive," said Paragould Police Chief J.D. Stephenson.

It was in the parking lot of Rent-One on Kingshighway in Paragould where police responded to a call of a baby inside a car just after two on Monday afternoon.

Upon arrival, they found a 6-week-old infant in her car seat partially covered in a fleece blanket.

Only the front windows of the car were cracked to let any air circulate.

"To us it is unthinkable. What a person would be thinking to do that, I just don't know," said Stephenson.

The infant was taken from the car and transported to Arkansas Methodist Medical Center for treatment.

The mother, 21 year old Monica Smith was found inside Rent One trying to get a refrigerator.

She told police she had been inside for about five to ten minutes filling out applications.

Five to ten minutes in extreme heat can be dangerous very quickly. In a K8 news experiment, I sat inside a car for ten minutes.  In that time the temperature inside the car rose from 86 degrees to 117 degrees.  That was a 30 degree rise in just ten minutes.

That's a change too fast for babies to adapt to.

"Babies have a unique structure. They have a lot more skin than they do inside structures. So, their skin absorbs heat really fast, and that means that any change around them is harder for them to adapt to," said Dr. David Matthews of the Children's Clinic.

He says it only takes a few minutes before the body dehydrates and shuts down.

"Two minutes, three minutes, four minutes...that temperature rise is going to make them very very stressed, and probably put them at high risk for unwanted events," said Matthews.

So how often are children left in cars unattended?

"It happens across the United States day in and day out. People simply don't think. They don't realize how hot it gets inside of a vehicle," said Stephenson.

He says it's a quick misjudgement that could end a life.

"Children are very precious. To leave a child that is 6 weeks old and can't defend itself, and it stuck. That child was stuck. Without the adults to protect it or see after it that child dies," said Stephenson.

Smith's baby was treated and released from the Paragould hospital.

Meanwhile, Monica Smith was charged with first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

She is being held on a 25-thousand dollar bond in the Greene County Detention Center.

Her charges are a Class B Felony and carry penalties of a fine up to 10-thousand dollars and up to six years in prison.

As of Friday, Smith was still in jail.

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