Local News

Investigation Into Toddler's Death Continues

Posted September 19, 2002

— No charges have been filed in the death of a 2-year-old girl left in a day-care center van for more than seven hours Tuesday.

Investigators said they need more information from the state medical examiner and information about the temperature inside the van before they can make a decision on charges.

Relatives of 2-year-old Ranika Clifton want to know why investigators have not charged the van driver, Tim Day, with a crime.

In the eyes of the law, a big part of the equation is intent. If a person does something by mistake, what, if anything, should he be charged with?

"In a situation like this, you have to gather the facts before you can make a decision as far as charging somebody. That's where they are now," Wake County Sheriff John Baker said.

Baker said Day is tormented by Clifton's death, but investigators said that will not play a role in whether to charge him.

"He's devastated by this. Of course, his emotions at this time won't enter into the facts that will be given to the district attorney," Baker said.

"We need to gather all of the evidence and make this decision on the facts and the law, not rush out and make a judgment based on sympathy or some other inappropriate factors," said Colon Willoughby, Wake County district attorney.

In June, witnesses said a Fuquay-Varina man left his 9-month-old daughter in a hot car while he was shopping at a Cary drugstore. The baby was fine, but police charged Jeffrey Blanton with misdemeanor child abuse.

Willoughby said the difference between this case and the Clifton case is intent.

"In order for someone to be held criminally responsible for negligence, it's got to be a culpable negligence or a reckless disregard, not simply a mistake, but a reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others," Willoughby said.

Investigators said they do not expect to make a decision on charges until next week.

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