A man has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and elder abuse in connection with the death of an autistic man who was left alone in a hot car in West Covina last summer.
Emanuel Arellano was charged for the death of 51-year-old Timothy John Cortinas on May 31, reported KTLA5. Arellano was an employee of Easterseals, one of the organizations that provided services to Cortinas.
Cortinas suffered from multiple disabilities—from severe intellectual disability disorder, infantile autism, and seizure disorder. He was “borderline non-verbal and had the mental capacity of a child,” according to a last year’s report by KTLA5.
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The lawsuit was filed last year on behalf of Irene Melendez, Cortinas’s mother, against Easterseals, San Gabriel/Pomona Valley’s Developmental Services, Holy Family Children’s Care, and Emanuel Arellano.
The wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the named parties were responsible for Cortina’s death.
Instead of driving Cortinas to the home facility in Walnut, Arellano drove him to his own home in the 300 block of South Frankurt Avenue in West Covina.
He left Cortinas in the car for several hours when the temperature outside was 100 degrees, leading him to slowly die.
Arellano never went to the car. One of his neighbors saw Cortinas in the car and alerted the police. Paramedics tried to revive him when they reached him 8:04 p.m., but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
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“You have a special duty to these individuals, and to screw up on the magnitude–for lack of a better word–that they did is shocking,” family attorney Dean Aynechi told the media.
“We are pleased the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department agreed with us that Arellano’s negligent care of Timothy—leaving him to slowly die in a sweltering car on an August day when the outside temperature reached 97 degrees—amounts to involuntary manslaughter and abuse of a dependent adult,” Kamran Shahabi, one of the attorneys representing Cortinas, told KTLA5.
Melendez said she has been coping to live without her son.
“My heart is broken. To me, he was my purpose, and he was my life,” she told KTLA. “It’s just very hard and very difficult. I am going to the cemetery every week.”
Hot Car Deaths
Hot car deaths are mostly observed in cases where people get trapped in hot cars and are unable to help themselves. Children are among the worst impacted by such situations.
According to NoHeatStroke.org, 803 children have died in the United States due to Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke (PVH) since 1998. All of these deaths were preventable.
Explaining how the heatstroke deaths happen, the organization said: “The atmosphere and the windows of a car are relatively ‘transparent’ to the sun’s shortwave radiation and are warmed little. However, this shortwave energy does heat objects that it strikes. For example, a dark dashboard, steering wheel, or seat temperatures often are in the range of 180 to over 200 degrees F.”
Every year, an average of 38 children under the age of 15 die from heat stroke after being left in a vehicle, according to Injury Facts.
In 2018, 52 children died after being left in a hot car.
“Research indicates that in more than half of these fatalities, the child was forgotten in the vehicle by a parent or caregiver,” said the Injury Facts.
The number of children who have died in hot cars so far in 2019 has been 8, according to NoHeatStroke.org.