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Mon, Sept. 23

Mom who left infant in hot car sentenced

Melissa McElrath

Melissa McElrath

KINGMAN - The parents of a 7-month-old boy left in a car at Walmart will likely each receive 60 days jail time and three years probation.

Melissa Venna McElrath, 21, was formally sentenced Friday, while the boy's father, 29-year-old Jason Carl Vogt, won't be sentenced until Nov. 19. Each pled guilty to reduced charges from child abuse to endangerment by domestic violence as part of a deal with prosecutors.

During McElrath's hearing, Judge Lee Jantzen implied that the couple would get matching sentences but wouldn't have to start serving their jail time until June 2011, so that they could stagger their sentences to prevent losing custody of their son.

The infant was removed from their care following the August incident, where passersby heard the baby crying from the backseat of a car in the Walmart parking lot. The couple was reportedly inside the store shopping for shoes, cake and a bag of ice.

McElrath's attorney, Tammy Dusharm, said the couple had left a party at Walleck Ranch and were under the assumption Vogt's ex-wife was caring for the child while they ran to the store. She said the woman put the baby in the car without telling the couple and that he must have fallen asleep during the short ride.

Police say that when the couple saw police around their car upon exiting the store, McElrath ran up yelling, "My baby! My baby!" The police report says they told officers they were in a rush and forgot about the sleeping baby in the backseat.

It is believed that the baby was in the car for around 20 minutes with temperatures hovering around 100 degrees that day. Kingman Regional Medical Center measured the baby's temperature at the hospital at 101 degrees.

The boy has since been returned to his parents' care and was at Friday's hearing.

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