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Florida Firefighter Charged in the Hot-Car Death of His 23-Month-Old Son

Troy Whitaker
Troy Whitaker

A Florida firefighter was arrested Friday, September 9, and faces an aggravated manslaughter charge in the death of his 23-month-old son, Lawson, who was allegedly left in a sweltering pickup truck from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. 

On Friday morning, Troy Whitaker of Palm Harbor dropped his 5-year-old daughter, Addison, off at school, but never made the second stop at daycare, sheriff’s spokesman Kavontae Smalls told CNN.

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Eight hours later, after running several errands including a trip to the grocery store, Whitaker, 41, discovered Lawson “blue” and “not breathing” in the backseat and began performing CPR,  but it was too late. The toddler was pronounced dead at the hospital. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtiere told the Tampa Bay Times that Lawson’s body temperature had reached 108 degrees.

“Parents don’t just get passes for neglecting their kids,” Gualtiere told 10 News. “When you look at Florida law, what it says is: If you commit child neglect and it results in a death, then it’s aggravated manslaughter. The charge is based upon the facts and the evidence.” 

Gualtiere added that some parts of Whitaker’s story didn’t add up. “He goes over to Publix with the deceased baby in his backseat, gets to Publix and goes inside and shops for about 40 minutes, comes out of Publix and puts the bags on the front seat where he's looking straight back at where the kid would be,” the sheriff said. “[He] says he doesn’t see the kid, goes home, opens the exact same door to take the groceries out where he just put them in and now he says he sees the kid. So … there are some questions.” 

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Whitaker was released from the the Pinellas County Jail on $50,000 bail on Friday, the Associated Press reported. 

A GoFundMe campaign had raised more than $6,500 for Whitaker’s legal fees, but was taken down on September 11, per Fox News. 

Lawson is the 29th child to die of heat-related causes from being left inside a vehicle in 2016, according to the website

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