While she was at work on July 19, Tia Washington surfed the Internet on her phone looking for an application to create a photo collage of her 11 month old son, Karohn Jean-Baptiste.
Around noon, she even texted her ex-husband to ask if he remembered how much Karohn weighed at birth.
While Washington was collecting photos of Karohn for his first birthday—some of which she’d taken earlier that morning—he sat in the backseat of her SUV, just a short walk from the entrance to Hospice Big Bendwhere she worked.
More than six hours into her shift, the 28-year-old mother found her son unresponsive; strapped into the car seat.
The tragic timeline that led to the fatal flaw appeared in a probable cause statement that chronicled the events before and after the baby’s death, leading to Washington’s Arrest Friday charged with aggravated murder of a child.
On Monday, she pleaded not guilty, according to court records.
“This was a tough case,” said state attorney Jack Campbell, adding that Florida law makes it a crime to leave a child unattended in a vehicle for more than 15 minutes. “This was an absolute tragedy and I have no evidence that Mrs. Washington intended to harm her child.”
After her first performance, she was released on bail on Saturday. Her attorney, Adam Komisar, declined to comment on the case.
A typical day ends in tragedy
According to court records, Washington is divorced and has full custody of her older child and majority custody of Karohn. Washington’s ex-husband gets the baby three days a week.
On weeks when he has custody, Washington hands the baby over to Publix on Sunday night. She then picks him up from daycare on Tuesday evening at the Purposeful Beginning learning center, 2521 Mahan Dr.
By the week of July 19, Washington had custody of the baby.
She left her home in northeast Tallahassee at 7:03 a.m. to drop her 8-year-old off at Kate Sullivan Elementary School, 927 Miccosukee Road, for a day camp.
While carrying the baby, she walked to the cafeteria with her 8-year-old child – as she does every day.
After leaving Kate Sullivan’s parking lot, she drove straight to work at Big Bend Hospice, just five minutes away, instead of the Targeted Beginning daycare, as was the usual routine.
She backed into a parking lot, packed her bag in the front seat and went in at about 7:37am
“(Washington) did not recall hearing the sound from (her son) and stated that she forgot Karohn was in the back seat of her vehicle,” a probable cause statement said. “(She) reported going straight to work…without questioning whether (he) was with her that day.”
Tragic discovery made during lunch break
At 2:13 PM, Tia went to her Nissan Rogue for her lunch break.
After sitting in her SUV for a while, she turned and saw the baby in the back seat.
Less than a minute later, Washington burst through the front doors of the hospice and fell to the floor crying hysterically, court records say. A nurse at the facility heard the screams and followed them to Washington. Among the indistinguishable words, she heard “baby” and “car.”
She ran out and saw the back door of Washington’s SUV open and as she got closer, she saw that the baby had stopped responding in the back seat.
She lifted Karohn out of the car seat, which she described to police as “very warm to the touch” and handed it to another female employee who was standing nearby.
The baby was taken to a large conference room, where the two hospices took off his romper and performed CPR. Meanwhile, a bystander called 911.
Within minutes, Leon County EMS arrived and officially declared the baby dead.
His first birthday would have been Thursday, July 28.
Investigation, Findings and Arrest
A forensic specialist used a thermometer from Big Bend Hospice nursing staff and recorded the baby’s temperature at 107.2 degrees Fahrenheit at 3:45 p.m.
He had been in the unpainted SUV for 6 hours and 25 minutes. The coroner determined the cause of death was hyperthermia.
The same specialist noted that Karohn appeared “well-fed, cared for and free of any signs of physical abuse,” the court records say.
Investigators immediately began interviewing nursing staff and relatives; pulled security footage of the hospice and Kate Sullivan; and searched Washington’s phone records.
Washington’s ex-husband told police that “he was not aware of other times Tia had forgotten Karohn in the car,” according to an affidavit.
None of the evidence, including years of phone records, suggests Washington intended to kill her 11-month-old son, police said.
“While it does not appear that Tia intentionally left Jean-Baptiste in the car, she failed to be sufficiently conscientious and to take precautions to ensure the health and safety of her child,” the court said.
The prosecutor told the Democrat he would consider leniency and mercy in resolving the case.
“I fully understand that the public is struggling with (this matter),” he said. “Admittedly, I’m a father and I’ve struggled with it too.”
Contact Christopher Cann at [email protected] and follow @ChrisCannFL on Twitter.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Police reports detail hot car deaths in Tallahassee