Child death remains under investigation

Boy was found inside parked vehicle Thursday

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SANDPOINT - The death of a 3-year-old boy who was found unconscious in an unattended vehicle remains under investigation, according to Bonner County sheriff's officials.

Sheriff's Capt. Ror Lakewold said interviews are still being conducted and investigators are still awaiting a coroner's report and toxicology results.

The boy was found by his mother inside a vehicle parked in the 100 block of Walden Lane north of Spirit Lake on June 11.

Lakewold said the child's mother and her boyfriend picked up the boy from daycare around 7 a.m., after both worked late-night shifts. The mother spent time with the child and put on a television program for him to watch.

Lakewold said there was some "overlapping" sleeping time between the mother and the boyfriend. At some point, the child went outside to play with his two dogs.

The child and the dogs entered the couple's vehicle and pulled the door shut. Lakewold said the child could have been in the vehicle for as little as 20 minutes and as long as a couple of hours.

"That's one of the things we're really trying to pinpoint," Lakewold said.

The mother discovered the child in the vehicle and called for an ambulance around 12:45 p.m., but the child could not be revived. The dogs also died in the vehicle.

The child's biological father was stationed at an U.S. Air Force base in Nevada, but has returned to Idaho, Lakewold said.

Preliminary analysis suggests the child died of heat stroke inside the vehicle, although cause and manner of death remain under investigation, Lakewold said.

"With an outside air temperature of approximately 84 degrees, the inside air temperature could have been in excess of 130 degrees. Objects or a person inside the car in direct sunlight would have been significantly hotter," Jan Null, a meteorologist and lecturer at San Jose State University, said in an email to the Bonner County Daily Bee.

If heat stroke is determined to be the cause of death, it would be the fifth such death in the nation this year and the first in Idaho, according to Null.

Null said there were 30 juvenile vehicular hyperthermia deaths in the U.S. in 2014.

Lakewold said foul play does not appear to be a factor, but it has not been ruled out while the investigation is ongoing. He added that there is a possibility of criminal charges, ranging from injury to a child to involuntary manslaughter.

Sheriff's officials anticipate the investigation will be turned over to the Bonner County Prosecutor's Office for review and a charging determination sometime next week.

"It's horribly tragic," Lakewold said of the death. "It's a sad, sad deal."

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