As Gilbert police continued to probe the death of a 3-year-old girl left in a hot car last week, neighbors and strangers mourned the toddler’s death.
“The whole neighborhood is now engulfed in pink ribbons,” said Judy Rott, who lives on the same street where the unidentified girl’s family lives.
Indicating the color pink was chosen because “she is a little baby girl,” Rott said. Last week, “Our street is lined with pink ribbons on every boulevard tree. One of the neighbors went to Phoenix today to buy 3,000 yards of pink ribbon.”
The girl is the third and latest child to die after being left in a hot car this year in Arizona and the 39th nationwide, according to KidsAndCars.org.
Arizona ranked fourth in the nation for the number of child hot-car deaths with 43 fatalities since 1994, the national nonprofit child safety organization reported. Last year was the worst year in history for these deaths with a total of 53 children that died nationwide.
The group is pushing a federal bill, The Hot Cars Act, that would require technology in all vehicles to help prevent these deaths.
Gilbert Police are still investigating the circumstances leading to the child being left for up to three hours in a black pick-up truck in the family’s driveway.
“The decision to submit criminal charges will be determined once the investigation is complete,” Sgt. Mark Marino said in a news release.
Marino did not say when the department expected to complete the probe.
Property records showed the home is owned by Scott and Angela Jones.
When first-responders arrived near noon Sept. 3, in the Higley Groves West neighborhood at Higley and Elliott roads, they performed CPR and other medical intervention on the child, Marino said. By that time, the temperatures were already reaching into the triple digits.
The girl was transported to a hospital and later declared deceased, Marino added.
The family moved into the neighborhood in April, according to Rott.
“They were very new to the neighborhood but fit in well and loved it here,” Rott said. “This is a very caring, young family. They focused their lives on their children and this was just something that happened.
“She was a precious, little sweetheart. It’s just devastating.”
Rott said she has not communicated yet with the family, who was staying with in-laws elsewhere in the Valley.
Rott said it was a normal routine for the dad, who worked from home, to take the children to school while the mom worked as a correctional officer. The couple has two older daughters, 5 and 7, Rott said.
“Usually they all go to school or preschool and they were going to leave for vacation and he decided not to take the little one for pre-K and take her home,” Rott said. “Because of this upcoming vacation, it threw things out of whack from what he normally did.”
The family was scheduled for a getaway on the day after the incident occurred.
Apparently, after coming home, the father went inside to work and left the child in the truck, according to Rott.
“I’m assuming she fell asleep,” she said. “She’s a tiny 3-year-old so she would not be able to unbuckle her seat buckle and you know how fast these vehicles heat up.”
Although the family was still newcomers to the tight-knit neighborhood, residents there have come together in support.
Rott said residents even blanketed the community’s fences along Higley and Elliot roads with pink ribbons.
Others in Gilbert took note and were coming on board to show their solidarity with the family as well.
“You’ll be seeing pink bows sprinkled throughout Gilbert over the coming days to show support for the family,” wrote Cami Williams on a social media site.
“Regardless of opinions on how it happened, they are facing a devastating loss and I think it’s a beautiful gesture,” Williams added. “Feel free to join in with pink ribbons on your car, on your house, trees, or fence or wherever you feel is appropriate.”
Although some of the more than 100 comments on a social media site on the incident wondered how anyone could leave a child in a car, others expressed their condolences and support.
“For them, they have not gotten the funeral arrangements situated yet,” Rott said of the family. “They are just living minute to minute right now.”