Autopsy fails to pinpoint death cause for Oregon baby in car
HILLSBORO, Ore. (AP) — An autopsy has failed to pinpoint a cause of death for a 6-month-old girl whose father says he forgot her, leaving her in his car for six hours with the windows rolled up in a suburban Portland parking lot last October.
A medical examiner said Wednesday it's likely little Jillian Freier died within the first hour, The Oregonian newspaper reported (http://is.gd/GfS9Fx). While the autopsy wasn't conclusive, Dr. Clifford Nelson of the Oregon state medical examiner's office said it's possible she died in her sleep before the car heated up. He ruled it "sudden unexplained infant death."
A search warrant affidavit unsealed Tuesday suggested police suspected heat was involved in the death.
The affidavit quotes Intel worker Joshua Freier, 38, as saying he was taking his daughter to day care on Oct. 16 but started thinking about his job, drove to Intel in Hillsboro, got out and went to work. His wife called hours later to ask where the girl was. The air temperature that day was about 70 degrees.
Nelson said breathing can become difficult for infants while they are sleeping upright. Their oxygen levels go down while their carbon dioxide levels increase, causing their breathing to become shallow, he said.
While adults would naturally awaken in similar circumstances, infants seem to fall more deeply asleep, he said. Nelson noted that's just one possibility.
He said he has seen similar cases before, but nothing with the same set of circumstances.
"It is just a tragic loss to the family one way or another," Nelson said.
Authorities had not previously released the autopsy results, the newspaper said.
Police have found nothing to indicate Joshua Freier intentionally harmed the child, said Lt. Mike Rouches, a Hillsboro police spokesman.
As part of their investigation, Hillsboro police did an experiment three days after the death, the affidavit said. With the weather slightly cooler, they parked the car in the same spot and left it.
After two hours, the outside temperature ranged from 58 to 64 degrees. Inside the car, it was 116.
After his wife called to say the child wasn't at the day care, Freier ran outside to find her not breathing, her lips blue. Attempts to revive the girl failed.
The affidavit says an officer noted Freier's face was pale and he appeared to be in shock. It quoted him as saying: "I don't know what I'm going to say to my wife and son. I totally forgot she was in my car."
The Washington County district attorney's office hasn't made a charging decision yet. Prosecutors are waiting for evidence analysis at a federal crime lab.
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com