Georgia woman charged in grandson’s heated car death released on bond

The northwest Georgia woman accused of leaving her young grandson inside a heated car for several hours this week, leading to his death, has bonded out of jail.

Barbara Michelle Pemberton, 47, posted $100,000 bond and was released from the Walker County jail around 8:40 p.m. Friday, the same day she was charged with second-degree murder and child cruelty in connection with the death of her grandson, 13-month-old Shadoe Braxton Pate. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation believes Pemberton left the child alone in her car for five hours Tuesday while she was visiting friends at a home in Rossville, about four miles south of the Tennessee border.

Shadoe was found dead in his car seat around 4 p.m., and his cause of death was determined to be hyperthermia, exposure to extreme heat over a period of time. The heat was on inside the car and combined with the sun’s rays to make the vehicle’s interior as hot as “a summer day,” GBI spokesman Greg Ramey said.

Pemberton reportedly told friends she left the child in the car because he was sleeping and she didn’t want to disturb him.

“She was up front about her role with the child,” Ramey told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday. “But obviously, through the investigation, it was determined that, regardless of how forthcoming she was, she was neglectful of the child.”

The punishment for second-degree murder — a new charge introduced in a law passed by the Georgia Legislature in 2014 — ranges from 10 to 30 years in prison, and there is no requirement for prosecutors to show intent. Republican state Rep. Christian Coomer of Cartersville, the sponsor, has said he crafted the statute because of discrepancies in how various law enforcement agencies were charging when children died in hot cars.

According to an online obituary, the child lived in Rossville and is survived by his parents, Shadoe Pate and Brittany Hicks, and three siblings.

Visitation will be held from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday at the W.L. Wilson and Sons Funeral Home in Fort Oglethorpe. A memorial service will follow.

According to the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose State University, which tracks such cases, Shadoe’s passing was the country’s first hot car death of 2016. In 2015, 24 children died of heatstroke after being left in cars.