An Oklahoma mother whose 5-month-old girl died after being left in a hot SUV for over two hours was convicted of felony child neglect.
The mother, Adele Gonzales, 37, of Dell City, Oklahoma, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Thursday, Sept. 14.
Gonzales claimed she was unaware that her daughter, Ashanti Hunt, was in her SUV when she and her teenage daughter spent more than two hours at a nail salon on Aug. 29, 2015, The Oklahoman reported.
Gonzales initially told police that she brought the baby into the salon with her and only left her in the vehicle for about 20 minutes with the air conditioning on.
However, prosecutors said she later admitted that she lied in her initial interview with police.
Oklahoma County jurors could have chosen up to life in prison for her punishment, according to The Oklahoman.
“I respect the jury’s decision, but I’m terribly disappointed,” defense attorney Perry Hudson told The Oklahoman.
During the trial, he called the baby’s death a “tragic accident, not a crime.”
During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Lori McConnell countered, “It’s a tragedy, but don’t confuse that with an accident.” She argued that the mother’s multiple negligent actions led to the death of her baby daughter.
When Gonzales left her home, she did not see Ashanti with the other children but assumed the infant was in another room, McConnell told jurors. The prosecutor also said Gonzales left home “knowing she never laid eyes on her child.”
In addition, prosecutors noted that Gonzales didn’t call to check on her other young children, the oldest being 12, who were left at home while she was at the nail salon, according to The Oklahoman. At least three other female siblings were left at home.
Gonzalez took her 16-year-old daughter Atavia Robinson to the nail salon. Robison, now 18 told jurors she forgot that she had put Ashanti in the car. The baby was sleeping and did not make any noise. The mother’s attorney argued that Robinson forgot because she was excited to get her nails done.
Both Gonzales and Robison did not realize they had left the baby in the vehicle until arriving back home from the nail salon. The baby was pronounced dead at the hospital that same afternoon.
Emergency responders testified that when they arrived at the scene, the baby was unresponsive and “very hot” to the touch. According to prosecutors, the baby’s core body temperature reached 110 degrees, causing her death.