Hospital CEO Leaves Child to Die in Hot Car

ByABC News
July 5, 2001, 3:07 PM

July 5 -- Authorities in Iowa are trying to decide whether to file charges against a hospital CEO whose 7-month-old daughter died after being accidentally left in a minivan while she rushed off to attend meetings.

The county medical examiner has ruled the death accidental, but prosecutors have yet to decide whether to charge Kari Engholm over the death of her daughter Clare.

Engholm left Clare in a minivan last month on a day when outside temperatures approached 90 degrees. Engholm was rushing to attend a series of meetings at Dallas County Hospital in Perry, Iowa.

Engholm's family, it seems, has forgiven her, calling the death a tragic mistake, the result of an overstressed woman who was used to her husband dropping the little girl off with the baby sitter.

"Kari is a loving mother and my best friend," her husband, Dennis, said at a memorial service for Clare last month. "She loved Clare deeply. She always remembers and celebrates our children's milestones."

Prosecutors are expected to decide soon whether a fatal lapse of memory by a woman otherwise considered a good mother could be considered criminal.

Engholm had forgotten she was supposed to have dropped the child at the baby sitter and discovered Clare's body when she picked up her elder son from a child-care center after work, according to The Associated Press.

"It is clear from the facts of this case that there was nothing willful, nothing knowingly done by this parent," William Kutmus, an Iowa attorney who defended a woman accused of criminal negligence for leaving her baby in the bathtub while she went to answer the phone, said today on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.

In that case, the woman was on the phone long enough to have two cigarettes, and in the meantime her baby drowned.

Need for Emergency Plans

"I think under these circumstances, this case really amounts to at least civil negligence, and probably more of an accident type," Kutmus said of the Engholm case.

The baby sitter who was expecting the child to arrive in the morning called the Engholm home to find out where the girl was, but no one got the message until it was too late.