Woman who left boyfriend's 4-year-old daughter to die inside car on 97-degree day cleared of all charges, fined just $25
30-year-old Renee Borgess was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of children, and reckless endangerment and walked out of court a free woman.
A 30-year-old Pennsylvania woman who had locked her boyfriend's four-year-old daughter in the back seat of a car on a searing day in July 2016 and caused her death has been cleared of her numerous charges by a jury and ordered to pay a grand total of $25 in fines.
According to the Daily Mail, the court heard of how on the morning of July 22, 2016, the then-28-year-old Renee Borgess dropped her two-year-old son Isaac off at his daycare center in Williamsport and then drove to work. In doing so, she forgot to drop off her boyfriend's daughter, Samaria, to her own daycare and left her inside the SUV at the rear of a downtown business where there was no shade.
The four-year-old girl was buckled into the backseat as Borgess left for work and was discovered after the 28-year-old returned six-and-a-half hours later. The child was found unconscious on the floor of the vehicle having climbed into the front seat and was rushed to the hospital with her internal temperature measuring in at an alarming 110 degrees.
Samaria couldn't survive the ordeal — it was determined that the outside temperature was 97 degrees that day, meaning the temp inside the car's interior could have hit upwards of 120 degrees — and Borgess was subsequently charged with involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of children, and reckless endangerment. But the jury found her innocent on all three counts, with the $25 fine stemming from Senior Judge Dudley N Anderson finding her guilty on a summary charge of leaving a child unattended in a car. Unsurprisingly, the decision did not go down with several friends and family members of the child who had gathered in the courtroom and who had to be escorted out to prevent further commotion.
Pennsylvania Live reported that in his argument, defense attorney Peter T Campana claimed a brain malfunction had caused his client to lose awareness and forget Samaria in the SUV. He also said Borgess was chronically sleep-deprived and under stress because of her looming marriage to her boyfriend and Samaria's father, William Motyka, stating the now-30-year-old did not consciously forget the child in his closing arguments.
However, First Assistant District Attorney Martin Wade addressed the jury and said there was "no reasonable explanation" why the mother could have left the four-year-old in the SUV. He argued forgetfulness was not a reasonable explanation for what she did and that "it's absurd to leave a child to die in a car." While, nationally, 30 to 50 children die annually from heat stroke after being stranded inside a car, Samaria's death was the only one in Pennsylvania in 2016.
After closing arguments, in which Campana implored the jury to base their verdict on evidence rather than emotion, the jurors were tasked with determining whether Borgess' actions constituted a criminal act or a mere lapse in memory. After less than three hours of deliberation, they went with the latter. As friends and family of the girl decried the verdict and protested even after their eviction from the courtroom, Campana hailed the outcome and said justice had been served.