JACKSON, Miss. – A Mississippi man has been indicted for manslaughter several weeks after his 8-month-old daughter died in his hot car while he worked.
Joshua Blunt's attorney, Carlos Moore, said Blunt was notified of the indictment Tuesday and appeared before a judge in Grenada County to plead not guilty.
Circuit Judge George Mitchell set a $15,000 bond for the 25-year-old Blunt, and Blunt was sent to the Grenada County jail Tuesday evening. Moore said people close to Blunt were trying to raise money to post his bail.
"I'm shocked," Moore told The Associated Press. "I am glad it's not a murder indictment. I still intend to vigorously defend him on these charges."
Blunt's baby, Shania Rihanna Caradine, died May 19, eight days after another young child died in a hot car in another Mississippi county. The mother in the other case was not arrested and has not been charged. The two counties have different district attorneys, but Moore questions the difference in how the cases are being handled.
"It's unfortunate that there seems to be two systems of justice in Mississippi and across America," Moore said.
Moore said he doesn't know whether the disparity is because of race or because of economic status. His client is black and not wealthy, Moore said. The family in the other case is white, and the child had attended a day care center in a relatively affluent suburb of Jackson.
Blunt went to work at a Grenada restaurant on the morning of May 19, then took a break to pick up his girlfriend and their baby, Moore said in a May 23 interview. Blunt took his girlfriend to her work at a fast-food restaurant and was supposed to drop off the baby at his girlfriend's mother's house. Moore said Blunt "intended to take the child to the grandmother's house, but somehow he forgot."
Blunt went back to work for about four hours, and when he and a colleague went to his car, the colleague discovered the unresponsive baby in the back seat, Moore said. They took Shania inside the restaurant and put cool towels on her to await an ambulance that took her to the University of Mississippi Medical Center Grenada. Grenada County Deputy Coroner Jo Morman said physicians at the hospital tried unsuccessfully for hours to revive the baby.
Blunt was arrested after his daughter died and was initially charged with second-degree murder.
His bond originally was set at $250,000, but a municipal judge allowed him to leave jail on his own recognizance in time for his daughter's funeral. He had remained out until Tuesday. Moore said in May that a city prosecutor had pledge to reduce Blunt's charge to misdemeanor culpable negligence, which would carry a maximum of one year in the county jail, if convicted. Instead, the district attorney — a higher-ranking prosecutor — brought the felony charge with a conviction punishable by two to 20 years in prison.
Janette Fennell, founder and president of the Kansas-based KidsAndCars.Org, said that between 1990 and 2015, charges were brought in 45.5 percent of cases involving the deaths of children in hot cars in the U.S., and no charges were brought in 44.5 percent of cases. It was unknown if charges were brought in the remaining 10 percent of cases, she said.
The group's figures show there were 706 cases of children dying in hot cars for those 25 years, although some cases involved multiple deaths.
Using a slightly shorter set of years, from 1990 to 2014, Fennell said there were 726 deaths of children in hot cars in the U.S.