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Dad charged with manslaughter after son, 4, dies after being left in car outside St. Paul event

Kristopher Alexander Taylor

Sarah Horner and Mara H. Gottfried / St. Paul Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL - A 4-year-old boy died Saturday, May 4, after authorities say his father left him in his vehicle for several hours while he worked in St. Paul’s Lowertown area.

Kristopher Alexander Taylor, 26, ran into Regions Hospital carrying his son, Riley Taylor, at 5:35 p.m. Saturday seeking medical attention for the boy after he discovered him unresponsive inside his Dodge Journey, according to the second-degree manslaughter charge filed Monday in Ramsey County District Court.

Medical staff pronounced the boy dead.

The outside temperature was about 70 degrees when Riley was found and, while additional testing is underway, the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office determined his probable cause of death was hyperthermia.

Police said Taylor was working for a vendor for GrillFest, which rented out CHS Field for Saturday and Sunday.

Taylor initially told officers he brought his son into the park with him at the beginning of his shift and only returned the boy to the vehicle around 2:45 p.m. because his son was tired.

He said he placed his son in the car at that time with a blanket and a game and cracked the window before returning back to work, according to the criminal complaint.

When he returned about three hours later, he said he found his son “stiff” and rushed him to the hospital.

Officers later interviewed some of Taylor’s co-workers, who told them Taylor never left during his work shift, according to the complaint.

The boy’s mother told police Taylor picked their son up around 2:30 a.m. Saturday because she had to go to work early that morning, according to the complaint. She said their son was fine at the time.

The information prompted authorities to interview Taylor a second time. That’s when Taylor admitted that he left his son in the car during his entire shift, which began about 11:30 a.m. Saturday and ended shortly after 5 p.m., the complaint said.

Couldn't find anyone to watch son

Taylor told police he couldn’t find anyone to watch his son while he worked so he brought him along and left him in the car, charges say.

People under age 21 were not allowed into GrillFest, but organizers were “not aware that a child was anywhere near CHS Field,” said Katie Hickman, marketing and public relations manager for Greenspring Media, which owns GrillFest.

Taylor told police he didn’t think it was that hot out at the time, adding that he’d done it once before about a year ago and that “nothing bad happened on that occasion.”

He acknowledged in that instance he left the window all the way down, charges say.

Taylor’s vehicle was parked in an area “entirely exposed to the sun,” according to the complaint.

Medical staff found no signs of trauma on Riley’s body, but noted signs of decomposition after being exposed to the heat for several hours.

Taylor doted on his son in a Facebook post when the boy turned 4 last August, writing he was “blessed with an unstoppable bundle of happiness and joy that this little guy brings to the world everyday. … (H)e shows me the thrill and joy of being a father to guide him through life.”

After Riley’s death on Saturday, police arrested Taylor and he was booked into the Ramsey County jail. He has no criminal convictions on his record, according to Minnesota court records.

Taylor was denied a public defender at his first court appearance Monday afternoon. His bail was also set at the hearing at $25,000.

His next hearing is scheduled for May 10.

GrillFest is not releasing information about which vendor Taylor was working for.

The situation “came to light after the event,” Hickman said. “At this point, our condolences are with the family and assisting with the ongoing investigation.”

Cars become 'like a greenhouse'

A national nonprofit, KidsAndCars.org, says 2018 was the worst on record nationally for children dying in hot cars — there were 52 instances, according to Janette Fennell, the organization’s president and founder.

Riley’s death is the fifth this year of a child who suffered heatstroke after being left in a vehicle in the United States, Fennell said. Five children died in hot vehicles in Minnesota between 2001 and 2013.

The inside of a vehicle heats up very quickly and children have died in cars when the outside temperature was in the 50s, Fennell said.

Based on Saturday’s outside temperature in St. Paul, the temperature in the vehicle could have reached 110 degrees, depending on various factors, Fennell said.

“People need to understand that a car is like a greenhouse and the temperature goes up very quickly,” she said.

Cracking a car’s windows open doesn’t stop the inside of the car from reaching maximum temperature either, Fennell said.

In 55% to 60% of instances of fatalities in hot cars, they happened because a parent or caregiver forgot the child in the car, according to KidsAndCars.org.

At least 13% of children are knowingly left in vehicles, but it’s “rare to almost never that someone does this purposely to harm a child,” Fennell said.