Police: Mom slept as kids died in hot car
- Mom allegedly said she fell asleep after leaving kids in car
- 3-year-old and 2-year-old found dead from heat exposure
- Family members reportedly say mother would never intentionally harm the children
Authorities say a Tennessee woman was inside her home sleeping while her two children were dying from heat exposure in her car.
Police were called to the Smyrna home of 25-year-old Samantha Harper on Thursday afternoon. Responding officers found Harper’s 3-year-old son Daniel and 2-year-old daughter Savanna dead in the driveway next to a vehicle, according to a Smyrna Police Department press release.
Court documents allege that Harper “stated she put the child[ren] inside the car and went back inside the home” where she “fell asleep.” According to arrest affidavits, Daniel and Savanna died from heat exposure.
A detective handling the case could not be reached for comment Monday, but Sergeant Bobby Gibson reportedly told the Tennessean that investigators believe the two children were left alone in the car for at least an hour. The Weather Channel reported outdoor temperatures in the Smyrna area reached into the high 90s that day.
According to WTVF, Gibson described conditions inside Harper’s home as “deplorable.” Codes and Building Safety Department official Steve Smith confirmed to HLN Monday that the house was condemned following Thursday’s incident.
Harper is currently charged with two counts of especially aggravated child abuse. Police have not released information about why she allegedly left the children in the car, but they said additional charges may later be filed in the case.
Harper remained in custody at Rutherford County jail Monday with bond set at $200,000. Smyrna Municipal Court records did not indicate whether she has retained an attorney, but her next court appearance is scheduled for August 9.
Relatives reportedly expressed shock when they learned what happened and insisted that they believed the children’s deaths were accidental.
"We know she would not intentionally hurt those children. She would not. They were her pride and joy," aunt Estella Shipp said, according to WSMV.
“She made a mistake, like many parents do,” family member Sarah Brazas told WSMV. “And this one, she lost her babies, and we're just never going to get to see them again.”