Police: Toddler left inside parked car with heater running dies, father arrested for neglect

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Oklahoma police are investigating the death of a toddler in a vehicle parked at a downtown Tahlequah park.

Around 9 p.m. Monday, police were notified anl ambulance was en route to an unresponsive child at Norris Park on Morgan Street.

When police arrived, paramedics were already caring for an 18-month-old girl. She was transported to the hospital where she was pronounced dead, according to police.

Detective Jeff Haney said an initial investigation shows the child had an extremely high core temperature. 

Haney said the child's father, 19-year-old Cody Butler, was at the park outside the vehicle while the child was in a car seat in the back seat of the car.

"It appears the father had the car running and the heater on," said Haney.

Haney said Butler removed the child from the car when he noticed her cheeks were purple.  He then administered CPR.

"This type of tragedy is one of the hardest calls we respond to as law enforcement officers," said Police Chief Clay Mahaney.  "We feel for the family and strongly remind everyone to never leave a young child unattended for any amount of time."

Police tell Scripps station KJRH Butler had his daughter for an extended holiday weekend and the two were at the park playing with Butler's girlfriend. As it got later and colder and his daughter got tired, Butler placed her in the car with the heater on while he stayed outside speaking with his girlfriend. About an hour later he noticed something was wrong.

Detectives are now looking through surveillance video to determine exactly how long the toddler was in the car, but believe she may have been for up to an hour.

Though police believe this was an accident, Butler is still facing charges for child neglect and second-degree manslaughter.

Formal charges are pending the completion of reports from responding officers and the medical examiner.

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