Edmonton Sun

Friday, October 4, 2002

Cruel murder alleged

Tot dies in sweltering car while mom was at work


ATLANTA -- Police have charged a mother with murder after she left her three-year-old daughter with Down's syndrome strapped in a sweltering car on the first day of her new job.

Ashante Burgess died Wednesday shortly after arriving at a hospital, where doctors said her temperature was 42 C.

Police also charged Nakia Burgess, 28, with cruelty to children. The woman's lawyer, Phinia Aten, said her client left Ashante in the car because she couldn't find affordable day care.

The lawyer said Ashante was playing with a chalkboard the first time Burgess checked on her. Burgess found her daughter unconscious around noon, less than 90 minutes after arriving to work as a transcriptionist.

"She is extremely remorseful about what happened. This was her only child," Aten said. "At this point, her life has no meaning to her."

Burgess wept during a brief hearing yesterday and was placed on suicide watch at the Atlanta-Fulton County Jail.

The high temperature in Atlanta was 29 C on Wednesday, but temperatures inside closed cars can climb five degrees higher. The windows were cracked, but the car was exposed to the sun, police said.

Burgess was supposed to start the temporary job Monday, but had trouble finding child care, her lawyer said. She was given an ultimatum to show up Wednesday or lose the job, Aten said.

Child care often kept Burgess from working, especially because some day-care providers could not take a child with special needs, Aten said.

Copyright © 2002, Canoe, a division of Netgraphe Inc.