A South Texas mother was charged with manslaughter Wednesday in the death of her 3-year-old son, who wandered off and became trapped in the family's broken-down van on a day when temperatures topped 90 degrees.
Elena Isabel Rodriguez, 33, was doing housework Tuesday and thought that all seven children in the house were watching television, said Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio. But 3-year-old Francisco Estrada had wandered away and climbed into the van. An older sister found him there more than 1½ hours later, Lucio said.
A justice of the peace pronounced the boy dead at the scene in Cameron Park, just north of Brownsville, on Tuesday afternoon.
Lucio said Rodriguez had been negligent for losing track of the boy for such a long period. The National Weather Service says temperatures topped 90 degrees Tuesday in the Brownsville area.
Rodriguez was arrested Tuesday evening and arraigned Wednesday morning. The manslaughter charge is a second-degree felony that carries a sentence of two to 20 years in prison. She was being held in the county jail on $40,000 bond. An official at the jail said it was unknown whether Rodriguez had retained an attorney.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement had flagged her at the jail, meaning that even if she came up with bail, she could not be released until her immigration status is confirmed.