A Georgia man has been charged with second-degree murder for allegedly neglecting to tell authorities that he’d left his 8-month-old daughter in a parked car when they arrested him nearby on an outstanding warrant. The baby later died.
Davied Whatley, 20, left his daughter Nova Grace Whatley-Trejo inside the car in the Snellville City Hall parking lot on Tuesday afternoon and walked to the nearby police department to retrieve guns that police had seized from him in a prior case, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations said.
Once there, he was taken into custody for a misdemeanor probation violation, which authorities said was related to a prior hit and run without insurance.
Temperatures in Snellville, located just east of Atlanta, hit 86 degrees on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
Nova Grace died “from being exposed in the vehicle for a long period of time,” said Snellville Police Det. Jeff Manley, speaking at a press conference Wednesday.
“He made no statements as to the fact that his daughter was left in the car, two buildings away from the Snellville Police Department,” Manley said of Whatley. “We have him on video from the time he walked into this lobby to the time that we transported him to the Gwinnett County Detention Center and released him to the sheriff’s deputies there; he was on video the entire time and he never made a statement that that child was in the car.”
It was the baby’s grandmother — Whatley’s mother, Leticia Padilla — who eventually found her and took her to a hospital around 10 p.m., where she was pronounced dead, said Manley.
Padilla insists her son did mention his daughter to officers as he was taken into custody, however.
“He told them,” she told local station WSB-TV. “He loved his daughter.”
Padilla said police accused her son of lying about his daughter’s whereabouts when he told them. It wasn’t until around 9:30 p.m. that he was able to call a friend, she said, who then alerted her. Padilla said she rushed to the parking lot, where she found her granddaughter dead.
“They can say whatever they want to. They have to cover their tracks,” Padilla said.
Whatley was released from custody for the outstanding warrant on Tuesday night and then rearrested Wednesday morning on the murder charge, GBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Lisa Vorrasi said at Wednesday’s press conference. It was not clear whether he has retained an attorney.
An average of 38 children ― one every nine days ― die each year from being left inside a hot car, according to the advocacy group Kids and Car Safety.
Vehicles can quickly turn into death traps for pets and children, with temperatures able to reach 125 degrees inside of a car within minutes, even if the windows are cracked, according to the nonprofit child safety organization.
“Children have died from heatstroke in cars when outside temperatures were as low as 60 degrees,” according to the group’s website. Children are able to overheat three to five times faster than adults.