A Snellville man was charged with murder after he left his 8-month-old daughter sitting in a hot car for hours while he was arrested and taken to jail on unrelated charges. The father never told the officers arresting him that there was a child in his car that needed to be taken care of, a Snellville police detective said during a press conference.
David Japez McCorry Whatley, 20, faces a second-degree murder charge in the death of his daughter, Nova Grace Whatley-Trejo. Whatley parked his car at Snellville City Hall and went to the Snellville Police Department headquarters at about 2 p.m. Tuesday to retrieve a handgun of his that police had previously confiscated.
However, before releasing the weapon, police did a background check, which is standard practice to make sure a gun isn’t being released to someone with a felony conviction.
Officers discovered that there was a warrant for Whatley’s arrest for a probation violation and took him into custody, Manley said. From the time Whatley arrived at the police department until he was turned over to the Gwinnett County jail — more than 40 minutes — he was recorded on police body camera and dashcam video, Manley said.
“He made no statements as to the fact that his daughter was left in the car two buildings away from the Snellville Police Department,” Manley said.
Unfortunately, by the time the baby’s grandmother found the child in the hot car parked at City Hall, it was too late. She took the baby to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Temperatures in the area soared to more than 80 degrees on May 5, 2022.
Whatley bonded out of jail on the probation violation Tuesday night but was arrested again Wednesday and charged with second-degree murder in the death of his daughter.
Police say all of Whatley’s exchanges with police from Tuesday were recorded on body cameras and that he never mentioned leaving his daughter in the car while he was at the station. Police located his car parked at the adjacent City Hall after the baby had already been pronounced dead at the hospital.
The baby’s mother, Selena, spoke to a local news station about the loss of her little girl, who she described as the center of her world.
Selena explained, “She laughed and smiled since she was a month old. She talked to you in her baby language and answered you with noises when you said her name. I loved her more than I could ever imagine, and my heart is breaking that she is gone so soon.”
You can see the Snellville Police press conference on the infant’s death below. And PLEASE if you drive with children, always double-check to make sure no one is left behind.
In 2021, 23 children died in a hot car, and on average, 38 children under the age of 15 die each year from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle, according to the National Safety Council.
Since 1990, at least 60% of the hot car deaths were children unintentionally left behind, CBS News’ Kris Van Cleave reports. Some car companies have rolled out sensors that alert car owners if they lock the car and walk away without checking the back seat. Automakers agreed to make some sort of back seat alert standard in cars by 2025.
Experts say keeping something, like a kid’s toy, in the front of the car might help parents remember their children are in the back seat. Or, leaving an item the driver needs – like a purse or briefcase – in the backseat.