A mother and father in Florida were arrested this week for allegedly killing their 18-month-old daughter, leaving the child in her car seat overnight after returning home late from a drug- and alcohol-fueled Fourth of July party.
Joel Rondon and Jazmine Rondon, both 33, were taken into custody on Thursday and charged with one count each of aggravated manslaughter of a child, authorities announced.
“This is not an accident,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said during a Thursday press conference. “This is pure negligence and I suggest to you the core of the negligence is the abuse of drugs. Who suffered? Who died? The 18-month-old baby. So don’t ever tell me that these drugs are low-level and non-violent because they’re at the core of why this child is dead today.”
According to a press release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the Rondons on Tuesday attended a Fourth of July celebration in Lakeland with their three children, ages 8 years, 6 years, and 18 months old. The family arrived home at about 3:00 a.m. on July 5th, after both parents had consumed alcohol and smoked marijuana during the course of the party, the release states.
Upon their return, Jazmine Rondon instructed her husband to bring the toddler inside while she took the other two children into their home. Joel Rondon said the car door they used to access the child’s carseat was opened at that time. He then brought a few things inside and went back out where he observed that all four doors of the car had been closed. Assuming his wife had retrieved their daughter, Joel Rondon got into bed with his wife and went to sleep.
“Neither husband nor wife asked each other if they had brought the victim inside,” the release states.
Joel Rondon awoke around 10 a.m. the following morning and spent approximately an hour preparing for work. At around 11 a.m., he asked one of the older children to “check on the baby” in the bedroom. However, the child informed Joel that the baby was not in the bedroom, prompting him to search the house.
Eventually, Joel Rondon ventured outside and looked inside the car, which was parked in the driveway, fully exposed to the sun. Inside the vehicle, he discovered the unresponsive toddler, still strapped into her car seat. In a panic, he brought the child inside, then he and his wife drove the toddler to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center.
Despite efforts to revive the girl and lower her body temperature, the child could not be saved and was pronounced deceased at about 2:42 p.m., the release states. At the time of her death, authorities said the child’s internal body temperature was recorded at 104.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Medical center staff promptly notified law enforcement, who assumed control of the investigation.
“Even though it was painfully evident that this child suffered an absolutely torturous death, Lakeland Regional still worked on the baby to try to save its life. But it in fact was deceased,” Judd said.
Sheriff Judd added that the heat index on the day of the victim’s death was 105 degrees.
Later that evening, at approximately 7:00 p.m., both parents willingly submitted to drug screenings conducted by the Department of Children and Families. Joel Rondon tested positive for methamphetamine, marijuana, and alcohol, while Jazmine tested positive for both marijuana and alcohol.
“Seventeen hours after arriving home from the party, Jazmine tests positive for alcohol and marijuana. Joel tests positive for alcohol, marijuana, and methamphetamines,” Judd said. “Seventeen hours later — so you can imagine what kind of shape they were in when they arrived from this party and left this child harnessed in the baby seat.”
A subsequent autopsy revealed that the cause of the victim’s death was hyperthermia resulting from being left inside a car, and the manner of death was ruled a homicide.
On July 6, 2023, Joel and Jazmine were taken into custody and subsequently booked into the Polk County Jail. They are scheduled to appear in court again on Aug. 8 for arraignments.
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Joel and Jazmine Rondon left baby in car, killing her: Cops
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