Children pulled from hot car; baby-sitter charged |

Children pulled from hot car; baby-sitter charged

by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer

Two children were rescued Friday afternoon from a sweltering vehicle by Budweiser delivery men who noticed them locked inside, crying – and one of them bleeding – in a casino parking lot.

Ernestina Leon, 44, was arrested on suspicion of two counts of gross misdemeanor child endangerment and neglect and two counts of misdemeanor leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. Leon was baby-sitting the children while their mothers worked, said Carson City Sheriff’s Detective Cate Summers.

Travis McDonald and Wade Bennett had just spent 20 minutes delivering an order of beer to the Silver Dollar Casino in East Carson City when McDonald heard the children crying. McDonald said when they looked inside the dark tinted windows of a GMC Jimmy they saw a little girl with her nose bleeding and a baby boy in a car seat “covered in sweat.”

Both men tried to open the doors. When that failed, Bennett ran into the casino and asked employees to call 911.

Within moments of the 1 p.m. call, Bennett said, a woman emerged, unlocked the vehicle, gave the children water and began to clean them up.

“She kept trying to leave but we wouldn’t let her go,” said Bennett, the father of an 11-month-old baby.

“Those kids could have died of heat stroke,” McDonald said.

Detective Dave Legros said its unclear what time Leon arrived at the casino.

A waitress reported seeing her there at 9 a.m. Legros said casino officials were trying to track Leon’s activity on surveillance footage.

According to the girl’s mother, Leon had picked up her daughter from school at 11:15 a.m. Summers was unsure at what time Leon took custody of the boy.

Authorities believe the 5-year-old girl suffered a nose bleed from the extreme heat. She and the 19-month-old boy were transported to the hospital.

Legros said that when he shut the truck doors and tested the temperature after 20 minutes, portions of the vehicle’s interior registered a reading of 133 degrees. The Silver Dollar Casino’s electronic marquee displayed an outside temperature of 73 degrees at 1:19 p.m.

According to the Office of Traffic Safety, when the temperature outside is 73 degrees, an SUV can heat up to 100 degrees in 10 minutes and to 120 in just 30 minutes.

Heat exhaustion can occur at temperatures above 90 degrees and heat stroke can occur when temperatures rise above 105 degrees. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke and heat stroke, or hyperthermia, can be fatal.

Nationwide in 2005, 424 incidences were reported and 149 children were killed from being left unsupervised in a vehicle, according to Kids In Cars, a national organization that maintains a database of instances.

The children, who are not related, were treated at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center and released to their mothers.

Summers said the children had been entrusted into Leon’s care for about four months.

“The sheriff’s department is thankful for the assistance of those men,” she said. “Without their heroic actions, the outcome may have been fatal.”

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.