5 little girls die in W.V. car trunk

Published: Saturday, Aug. 8 1998 12:00 a.m. MDT

A West Valley neighborhood wept Friday after the bodies of five young girls were discovered in the trunk of a car in sweltering afternoon heat.

The girls, ages 2, 3, 5, and two 6-year-olds, had been missing for an hour when someone popped open the trunk of a car to find the bodies inside.Two of the girls were sisters, two were their cousins who were also sisters and the fifth child was being baby-sat by the mother of the sisters, said Lt. Charles Illsley of the West Valley Police Department.

Police did not release the children's identities Friday, because they were still trying to notify relatives who were out of town, Illsley said.

Illsley said it wasn't clear how the children got into the trunk, but they may have opened it with a release button inside the car and climbed in to play. He said they didn't use keys to get into the trunk.

The girls were last seen by one of the mothers at 3:15 p.m. About 25 minutes later, the mother called police to report them missing. At some point during the mother's search, neighbors said they saw the mother driving the very car the children were trapped in as she traveled along 5200 West asking if the girls had been seen. Detectives, patrol officers and the K-9 unit were also called out to conduct an exhaustive search, Illsley said.

Shortly after 4 p.m., someone decided to pop open the trunk on the dark green Saturn. One of the mothers, two police officers and a neighbor were present when the gruesome discovery was made.

Two of the girls were immediately removed from the car. Neighbors said the girls were lying on their side in the front yard, where unsuccessful attempts were made to revive them. Neighbors said someone was using a hose to try to cool the bodies.

Outside temperatures at the time the girls were found trapped in the car reached about 96 degrees, weather reports said.

The bodies were laid out on the grass in the front yard, covered with sheets as officers waited for investigators from the Medical Examiner's Office to arrive.

At one point, one of the mothers knelt next to the bodies, weeping.

Throughout the afternoon as detectives conducted their investigation, grieving relatives ducked under the yellow police tape, tears streaming down their faces as they walked slowly toward the little green house with the car in front where the tragedy unfolded.

One young blonde girl clutched her sides as if cold despite late afternoon heat, shaking her head repeatedly. Another woman who crossed the tape joined other relatives in the yard outside and began wailing.

Police, too, were struggling under the weight of the tragedy in which five lives were suddenly stolen.

"Any officer, working one year or 25 years who opens up a trunk and sees a sight like this is going to be devastated," Illsley said. The female officer who was first on the scene was taken back to the police station to talk to a chaplain.

Additional chaplains were sent to the family's home to counsel relatives.

At one point, a detective put his arm around the shoulder of another detective as the two walked across the street. One of the men then leaned forward against the car, his head down, as if trying to regain his composure.

"It's not pretty," an officer said, gesturing back toward the car where the bodies had been. "Everyone is crying up there."

The tears were falling throughout the neighborhood.

"They (the family) came down and asked my son, looking for them," said Jean McMichael. Her 13-year-old boy, Cody, was crying as he sat astride his bike in a "No Fear" T-shirt, hours after the bodies had been removed.

His older brother, Jacob, was delivering newspapers when he said officers began putting up the yellow tape.

Both boys were grim faced, and their mother was in tears.

"It's just senseless. How many kids need to die before car manufacturers begin to care?" the mother asked.

She said she was close with the family, her daughter often playing with the little girls who succumbed to the deadly August heat.

"How do you, as a parent, survive something like this," McMichael said, her eyes beginning to fill with fresh tears. "It's just so horrible."

McMichael said one of the victims had curly red hair and a charming personality.

"Everyone called her `Pickles.' "

Another neighbor said the four young victims who were related were the only grandchildren of one set of grandparents.

"I can't imagine," said neighbor Jeff Laws, his own 2-year-old daughter perched on his hip as he stared at the army of police cars, ambulances with lights flashing and the Medical Examiner vans waiting to take the bodies away.

"I don't even want to imagine."

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS