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Babysitter arrested after infant dies in 133-degree car in Baker County

Jessica Palombo
WJCT News, file photo

A 46-year-old babysitter was arrested Wednesday after a 10-month old girl was found dead in a car where the heat had reached 133 degrees, according to the Baker County Sheriff’s Office.

Rhonda Charmane Jewell of Sanderson was charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child after the baby's mother found her daughter about 1:30 p.m. in Macclenny, an arrest report said.

Investigators said Jewell, who had babysat the child before, picked up the 10-month-old baby from the mother’s home at 8 a.m. Jewell drove to another home in south Macclenny to babysit three other children but did not take the baby inside, the arrest report said.

"She advised she assumed the infant was asleep, so she went inside the residence and began interacting with the other children," the woman told investigators, according to the arrest report. "She advised she forgot all about the infant being left in the car."

The baby’s mother found her child still strapped in a car seat inside the hot vehicle. The arrest report said the temperature was at least 98 degrees outside and 133 degrees inside the car when they checked it, the report said. Deputies began life-saving measures on the child, after her mother had taken her out of the car, but she was declared dead at a hospital, the Sheriff's Office said.

The child was the sixth to die this year in a hot car in Florida, according to the organization Kids and Car Safety. No other state has recorded as many deaths.

In a Facebook message, Baker County Sheriff Scotty Rhoden said his department got a 911 call "that no law enforcement office ever wants to receive."

"It is protocol that when we make an arrest, we post the information on social media," Rhoden said. "Before doing so, we needed to take some time yesterday as a department to think about the impact this incident would have on everyone in our community. ... As the sheriff of a small community, posting the details of this tragedy is very hard for me."

The death came only a week after a baby was found sweating profusely in a closed car July 14 outside a wholesale club on Philips Highway in Jacksonville, police said. The engine was off as the vehicle baked in 90-degree-plus heat, the report said.

Shopper Michelle Rossman told WJCT News she spotted the child in the car just after 10 a.m., then she and others rescued the overheated boy from the unlocked car as police and firefighters were called. The child's 37-year-old father was charged with child abuse without great bodily harm after officers found him inside the store, according to police.

Florida Highway Patrol officials say there is no safe amount of time to leave a child unattended inside a car, where the temperature can rise by 20 degrees in 10 minutes. They advise parents to always check a car’s back seat to make sure no child is left behind.

Anyone who sees a child left unattended inside a vehicle should immediately call 911.

Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years as a radio, television and print reporter in the Jacksonville area, as well as years of broadcast work in the Northeast. You can reach Dan at, (904) 607-2770 or on Twitter at @scanlan_dan.