GEORGIA – It was just about 94 degrees one day last summer when Daniel Christopher Howard left his then 6-year-old son and a kitten in a truck while he went into a Macon Wal-Mart.
The truck’s windows were tightly rolled up and no air conditioning was on. The high temperature that day had reached 95.
Speaking in Bibb County Superior Court just this past Friday, Howard, in shackles, recalled that July 7 evening.
It was just 6 o’clock. He said his family was in the process of being evicted from their home and he’d stopped at the Zebulon Road Wal-Mart to cash a check in hopes they wouldn’t have to move. He was also going to grab some drinks.
His son, whose name is Aaden, a Heritage Elementary School student, stayed in the vehicle, a moving truck that Howard was using to haul their belongings.
Howard, who is now 34, told the judge Friday that he and Aaden had argued because the boy didn’t want to go in the store. The boy, he explained, wanted to keep playing with his new kitten.
Prosecutor Che’ferre Young said surveillance footage showed that Howard remained in the store until 6:24 p.m., which is more than 10 minutes after another shopper noticed the boy while she was putting her groceries in her car.
The shopper watched the child for just about five minutes. The kid was sweating. When his nose started bleeding, the shopper motioned for him to get out of the truck, Young explained.
Someone then called 911. An ambulance and a deputy got there just before Howard came out of the store, she edxplaine.
Howard did plead guilty to cruelty to children was sentenced to 10 years on probation. He must serve a total of between two and four months in a probation detention center. He also must attend parenting classes, pay a $500 fine and also pay $500 toward reimbursing the state for his court-appointed attorney.
Just before his sentence was announced, Howard tried to explain the incident.
He explaine the truck’s windows were down when he left Aaden and the kitten.
“I would never purposely hurt my child,” Howard noted.
Judge Howard Simms, after asking a few questions about the time and date, and comparing weather conditions to the ones this week, asked him to explain just how he could say he wouldn’t hurt his child, but yet he left Aaden inside a hot truck.
“It was bad judgment on my part,” Howard said.
After Howard explained that he and the boy had argued about Aaden not wanting to go in the store, Simms then asked him, “Who should win that argument?”
“It’s not up to him to make that call,” the judge stated.
Howard explained he had worked as a cable TV installer for a dozen years and admitted that he knows just what it’s like to be out in the heat.
He wept as the judge explained that the boy “could have died and it would have been because his daddy was stupid that day.”
Catherine Whitworth, who is Howard’s attorney, said neither her client nor Aaden’s mother currently have custody of the boy. He is currently with his grandparents in Columbia County — where Howard was living just prior to his arrest in May. Howard and his estranged wife have agreed to enter a parenting program.
Howard’s wife is in jail on a drug charge, Young stated.
Howard, who has a total of three children and a stepdaughter, explained he plans to file for divorce and hopes to regain custody of his children.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to dismiss an additional charge — cruelty to animals — which stems from Aaden’s kitten also being left in the truck.
The kitten, whose name was not mentioned at all in a police report of the episode last July, was “panting profusely” and had wet, matted fur.