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A Florida mom whose 1-year-old son died when a friend left the tot in a hot car wants the state’s governor to intervene, saying she doesn’t understand why prosecutors dropped charges in the case.
Makia Wallace, a 34-year-old corrections officer in Orange County, first met 35-year-old Dougkindra Wallace while in high school. Makia later started paying her friend $80 monthly to take her son, Jace Lucas Leslie, to and from day care in Pine Hills due to her 12-hour shifts, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
The arrangement worked for almost a year for the women – who are not related – until Sept. 11, when Dougkindra found the boy dead in her back seat after leaving him in her car before going to her job as a third-grade teacher at Rolling Hills Elementary School.
After dropping her own son with a babysitter, Dougkindra got on a call and drove to her job instead of dropping off Jace at day care – the result of her being “likely distracted,” according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
More than seven hours later, after the heat index surged as high as 105 degrees, Dougkindra left work and drove to a student’s house before heading to Jace’s daycare, where she discovered the boy dead — still buckled in his rear-facing car seat, the newspaper reported.
Dougkindra later surrendered to cops, but prosecutors ended up dropping the felony charges she faced — aggravated manslaughter and child neglect – in October, saying they didn’t have enough evidence of negligence, the Sentinel reported.
“All I’m asking for is justice,” an emotional Makia Wallace told the newspaper. “I’m refusing to be silent for my baby.”
The grieving mom said she has reached out to Gov. Ron DeSantis to get involved in the case. She also tried to reach an incoming prosecutor in the hopes that lesser charges can be filed against her former friend, according to the report.
State Attorney Aramis Ayala, whose terms ends next week, told the newspaper her office could not proceed with prosecuting Dougkindra despite the “horrific” facts of Jace’s death.
“This is an extremely sad and tragic case,” Ayala said. “… Although the Defendant clearly owed the victim a duty of care, breached that duty, and caused the victim’s death — this is the definition of simple negligence, a tort — not a crime.”
Staffers for DeSantis did respond to a request for comment, according to the report, although Makia Wallace said she had been told by his office he would not get involved unless a conflict of interest was found.
Makia, meanwhile, said she celebrated what would have been her son’s second birthday earlier this month and vowed to not stop fighting on his behalf.
“I just reflect back on every time Jace has brought me the jot and the love that I feel,” she told the Sentinel. “Every day, I wake up and I have to fight – fight for justice for my baby.”
Jace was one of 24 children who died in hot cars this year, according to Jannette Fennell, president and founder of KidsAndCars.org, who noted inconsistent prosecution of the tragic deaths nationwide.
“You’ll see cases that have an almost identical type of situation, and they’re treated extremely differently,” Fennell told the newspaper.
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