The death of a 15-month-old boy who was left in a hot car in Ridgefield, Connecticut, on July 7 has been ruled a homicide.
Benjamin Seitz died of hyperthermia due to environmental exposure, the medical examiner has determined. Detectives are in the process of meeting with officials from the state's attorney's office.
"The criminal investigation is ongoing and as such this office will have no comment on the status or details of the investigation including the autopsy report," said State's Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III, of the Judicial District of Danbury, in a statement.
Police said the child's father was supposed to drop the little boy off at daycare but instead drove to his workplace, Owl Computing Technologies, at 38A Grove Street in Ridgefield, with the baby still in the car.
According to investigators, the baby's father parked his vehicle at work with Benjamin still inside and left him there for "an extended period of time," on a day when temperatures in the area reached 88 degrees.
Lindsay Rogers-Seitz, Benjamin's mother, said her husband went to the daycare to pick up Ben. When he learned his son wasn't there, he asked the staff if his wife had picked him up earlier in the day.
He was told she had not, and so he went back to his car, found Ben and rushed him to Danbury Hospital, according to Rogers-Seitz.
William Dunlap, associate dean of Quinnipiac School of Law, said "the essence of homicide is that it was caused by another person" but emphasized that Ben's death has not been ruled a murder or criminal homicide.
"Prosecutors could decide to go with a murder charge if they think there's evidence of intent to kill, they could go with recklessness if they think he was aware there was a risk that this could happen but he consciously disregarded it, or they could charge him with criminally negligent homicide if they think he acted negligently, irresponsibly," Dunlap explained.
As she deals with the grief of losing her son, Lindsay Rogers-Seitz said she forgives her husband for leaving their son in the car and has decided to channel her grief into activism.
The couple is spreading the word about hyperthermia in children and Rogers-Seitz started a blog, The Gift of Ben, to raise awareness of heatstroke in children and help others avoid the tragedy she suffered.
According to the NHTSA, hyperthermia is the leading cause of non-crash-related death in children under the age of 15.