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Preliminary Report Finds Toddler Left In Church Van Died Of Heatstroke

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Foul play was not involved in the deathof a 2-year-old who died Sept. 17 when she was left in a churchday-care center van for seven hours, according to the state medicalexaminer's office.

The Wake County Sheriff's Office said Ranika Dena Clifton was left strapped in her car seat and wentunnoticed for seven hours when she was found unconscious andcould not be revived.

"Basically, she died of a heatstroke," said Dr. Gaffney Kraft,a pathologist who performed the autopsy at the State MedicalExaminer's Office at the UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

"It was a negative autopsy," Kraft said. "There was noevidence of any type of serious injuries."

The report lists cause of death as environmental hyperthermia.

The autopsy was performed the day after Ranika was found. Thefull report should be available late next week or the beginning ofthe following week, Kraft said.

Van driver Tim Day, 63, of Wake Forest told investigators heforgot to take Ranika from the van at the day care at CorinthUnited Church of Christ near Wake Forest.

Ranika's mother, Deborah Lucas, 40, of Wake Forest, said latelast week she wanted prosecutors to file charges.

However, no charges have been filed against Day, Wake Countysheriff's Capt. Gary Burrell said Wednesday night.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said last weekthat he would not be ready to consider charges until at least theend of this week, and he wouldn't discuss what those charges mightbe.

He has conferred with the district attorney in Lexington, whohas declined to press charges in two similar cases where very youngchildren were left in hot cars and died.

Kraft says the full report should be available late next week orthe beginning of the following week.

Ranika was found dead last Tuesday after spending about sevenhours in a closed van at Corinth Christian Daycare in Wake Forest.

The van's driver, 63-year-old Tim Day, forgot to take Ranikainside the day care after driving her there. So far, no chargeshave been filed against him.

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