Mother Admits To Leaving Her Son in Hot Car

Jeanette Darnley on Friday admitted to leaving her 9-year-old son locked inside a car in a retail store parking lot for 20 minutes on a 90-degree day in July.

An Ohio County grand jury indicted Darnley, 28, in September on charges of child neglect creating substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death and entering without breaking.

She accepted a plea agreement from the prosecution and on Friday pleaded in Ohio County Circuit Court guilty to child neglect. In exchange, the state dismissed the entering without breaking charge.

Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for Dec. 30 in front of Circuit Judge James Mazzone.

Ohio County Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Turak said if Darnley, “complies with requirements placed upon her on a companion civil case,” the state will recommend Mazzone impose alternative sentencing.

If she fails to do so, Turak will lobby for one to five years in prison, with Darnley being released after serving four months.

Also as a part of the plea agreement, Darnley agreed to testify against her co-defendant, Stephen Clemens. Clemens, 25, is scheduled to go to trial Wednesday, also on charges of child neglect and entering without breaking.

Clemens allegedly locked the boy in the car so he and Darnley could shoplift from The Highlands. A sheriff’s deputy responding to the suspected shoplifting found the boy locked inside the car.

Court documents state the child was “covered in sweat. The boy’s hair was soaked and large visible beads of sweat covered the child’s face. The boy’s shirt was also noticeably wet from sweat.”

All the vehicle’s doors were locked, and only one window was left open. A heat advisory was in effect for Ohio County that day.

Darnley reportedly told the deputy she did not know her son was locked in the car.

She said Clemens told her he would wait in the car with the boy because the child was misbehaving in the store.