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Soldier charged with manslaughter after forgetting son in hot car

Aug. 14, 2013 - 08:47AM   |  
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ANNISTON, ALA. — An attorney representing an Anniston woman accused of leaving her 4-month-old son in a parked car said Tuesday that his client is devastated by the boy’s death and isn’t a criminal.

Jim Sturdivant told AL.com that Katherine Papke, 35, of Anniston, went to drop off her two daughters at school on Friday and worked through lunch before realizing she didn’t drop her son, Bennett, off at daycare.

Papke, who is a sergeant first class with the Alabama National Guard, checked the car and called 911 once she saw her son, nicknamed “Bo,” inside. The boy was later pronounced dead.

“There’s moral responsibility for the child’s welfare, surely,” Sturdivant told the website. “But not criminal.”

Sturdivant told the Anniston Star that Papke had recently returned from maternity leave and was in the process of creating a daily routine. According to the Anniston Star, she is an active-duty soldier with the Alabama National Guard’s 167th Theater Sustainment Command and has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As part of an effort to lose weight after giving birth, Papke usually walked her daughters to school before walking her son to daycare, Sturdivant said. However, the girls were running late Friday and Papke instead loaded the children into her minivan and drove her daughters to school, Sturdivant said.

“She believed in her mind that she had dropped off Bo at the daycare until she realized the horrible reality that she had not dropped him off,” Sturdivant told the newspaper.

Papke was charged with manslaughter and leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle. The second charge is the result of a state law that took effect Aug. 1.

Sturdivant told AL.com he’ll likely file a motion to dismiss the second charge because he believes it applied only to childcare employees, or someone who is hired to look after a child.

The case is similar to one nearly 70 miles away just outside of Birmingham.

Police said a woman was supposed to drop her daughter off with a baby sitter on July 17 and didn’t realize the 11-month-old girl was left in the backseat until the sitter called asking where her daughter was.

Police investigating that case have said the temperature inside the woman’s SUV had reached about 130 degrees by the time they arrived.

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