Local News

Preliminary Report Finds Toddler Left In Church Van Died Of Heatstroke

Posted November 12, 2002 2:55 a.m. EST

— Foul play was not involved in the death of a 2-year-old who died Sept. 17 when she was left in a church day-care center van for seven hours, according to the state medical examiner's office.

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

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

"It was a negative autopsy," Kraft said. "There was no evidence 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. The full report should be available late next week or the beginning of the following week, Kraft said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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