How did this happen, and what charges do the parents now face?
An Avoidable Accident
On July 4, 2023, Joel and Jazmine Rondon, both 33, attended an Independence Day party in Lakeland, Florida, with their three children. The family stayed at the party until early morning, returning to their home around 3 a.m.
According to reporting by Bay News 9, the two parents arrived home and began unloading the car. They each thought the other had brought in their 18-month-old daughter who was sleeping in her car seat. But, neither parent brought the child inside.
In the morning, Joel Rondon got up around 10 a.m. An hour later, he asked the eldest child to check on the baby. When she wasn’t in her bed, Joel Rondon went outside and found her still in her car seat. She was unresponsive.
The parents rushed their daughter to the Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center where she was pronounced dead. An autopsy revealed that she died from hyperthermia due to being left in the hot car.
Two Parents Taken into Custody
Joel and Jazmine Rondon submitted to drug tests which showed they had both consumed drugs and alcohol. Jazmine Rondon tested positive for marijuana and alcohol. Joel Rondon was positive for marijuana, alcohol, and methamphetamines.
In a press conference, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said, “The pair consumed alcohol and smoked marijuana while at the party.” Their actions gave prosecutors a reason to charge them with a crime.
The parents were taken into custody and charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child.
Charged with Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child
Aggravated manslaughter of a child is a serious charge. It is a first-degree felony, considered a homicide, and punishable by up to life in prison, life on probation, and a $10,000 fine. The minimum punishment for the charge is 13 years in prison.
Defined in Florida Statute 782.07(3), the charge is used for, “A person who causes the death of any person under the age of 18 by culpable negligence under s. 827.03(2)(b).”
Florida Statute 827.03(2)(b) refers to, ”A person who willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a child and in so doing causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child commits a felony of the second degree.”
In this case, the parents are charged with manslaughter because their negligence led to the death of their daughter. As caregivers, they were responsible for their child’s welfare. They failed to provide the care and supervision necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health.
The parents did not intend to kill their daughter, but they are charged with being culpably negligent in their actions that led to the toddler’s death.
Child Neglect vs. Aggravated Manslaughter
On this blog, we covered another story of a parent who was arrested for putting their child in a dangerous situation that resulted in their death. In that case, Johnny Martin was criminally charged after he brought his son to an illegal street race and his son was hit by a racer and killed.
Martin was not charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child. In this case, the father was instead charged with child neglect, which is a second-degree felony that is punishable by up to 15 years in prison or 15 years probation and a $10,000 fine.
The charges are more severe for the Rondons. Because they left their toddler in the car, resulting in the child’s death, they now face up to life in prison for their negligence.
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