A woman whose grandson died of hyperthermia after she left him in a vehicle for several hours in January 2016 pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received 10 years probation on Monday, May 1, in Walker County Superior Court.
According to court documents and District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin's office:
Barbara Michelle Pemberton, 48, of the Kensington community will not go to prison but will carry a 10-year probation. She was also ordered to pay a $25,000 fine and court fees.
Pemberton was also initially charged with second-degree cruelty to children, but that count was merged with the second-degree murder conviction.
Pemberton purposely left the child in her 2005 Ford Focus that was left in direct sunlight (the outside temperature was about 52 degrees) with the heater running, and the temperature rose to more than 100 degrees, Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said in January 2016.
Shadoe Braxton Pate died of hyperthermia while in the care of Pemberton, Wilson said on Jan. 14, 2016.
The 13-month-old’s death was the result of Pemberton leaving him for more than 5 hours — strapped in a car seat but unattended — while she visited friends at 42 Circle Drive in Rossville, off North Jenkins Road, in the Fairview community.
The grandmother supposedly was babysitting while Braxton’s parents were working.
Pemberton arrived at her friends’ house about 10:30 a.m. for a visit that lasted into the afternoon, Wilson said.
The couple she was visiting asked about the child still in the car, to which Pemberton would check on by looking out the home’s window.
When Pemberton went to leave the residence after more than five hours, she found the infant unresponsive, Wilson said. The couple and Pemberton attempted CPR and called 911.
The infant was pronounced dead upon his arrival at Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe.
Wilson said in January 2016, Pemberton appeared to be fully aware of her surroundings and aware of what was going on that day. He said there was no sign of drugs or alcohol inside the house.
Wilson said there was not outward evidence that she was impaired.
The couple told investigators they encouraged her on several occasions to go check on the child and she would look out the door, look out the window, and (then) start talking about something else, Wilson said.
He said the car was too far away for a visual check on the child.
"She would gesture with her head and eyes looking toward the car. But the car was about 35 to 50 yards from the home," he said. "We can’t fathom how she could have checked on the child, even visual, much less physically looked in on the child.
"I think it is obvious that, for whatever reason, she chose not to go back and check on him, which is difficult to understand and comprehend," Wilson said.