Maurice Mitchell was charged in the July 2018 death of Raymond Pryer, Houston station ABC13 reported on July 24. Officials said he faces charges injury to a child by recklessly causing serious bodily injury or death.
Mitchell, 62, was driving the van on the day the toddler died.
Court documents stated that he turned off the passenger safety alarm in the van, which was implemented to avoid similar situations.
The child, known as R.J., was on a field trip with 28 other students who attended Discovering Me Academy.
“He was a miracle child, a miracle child,” Dikeisha Whitlock-Pryer, his mother, said. “I’m 41 and his father is 43. (R.J.) is my first and only child.”
Houston police said that the child was found unresponsive in the van at around 7 p.m., or more than five hours after the van parked.
Officials said R.J. was in the van for at least four hours, and temperatures inside reached at least 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
“They told me he had already been picked up. But, he wasn’t,” Raymond told the ABC affiliate. “So, I looked around and looked around for him and when I saw the fire truck, I just took off running to the back and I had that bad feeling and I saw him.”
Raymond “R.J.” Pryer Jr. died on July 19, 2018 after being left in a hot van for several hours at Discovering Me Academy. https://t.co/lK0ZrkDm6v
— KHOU 11 News Houston (@KHOU) July 23, 2019
The boy was later transferred to the hospital via paramedics. At the hospital, he was pronounced dead.
“This was a horrible, preventable death, and no child should be put at such risk,” R.J.’s parents said.
The boy’s parents filed a lawsuit against Discovering Me Academy weeks after his death, saying they were negligent for not having a system in place to account for all children, KHOU reported.
Please SHARE to remind your friends to be more mindful this summer (and all the time)… put your keys in the back with a child or your purse, or your left shoe, set a phone reminder when you load the child in the car… so you have tips to prevent… https://t.co/nOcm2QXFuW
— Gina Gaston (@GinaGaston13) July 23, 2019
“We were blessed to have him 1,178 days to be exact, and I thank God that we had those years to be his parents,” said Dikeisha Whitlock-Pryer of her son. “We needed to remember him for the joyful, energetic person that he was,” she added.
The mother said she will fight to protect other kids from hot car dangers.
Whitlock-Pryer said, “We’re going to continue to fight for justice. We can’t allow another child to die. We can’t allow another family to suffer what we’re suffering right now.”
The new charges against Mitchell will bring her family closer to finding justice, she said.
“It’s a must to fight for him. It’s a must that we continue to push forward and move forward,” Whitlock-Pryer told the news outlet. “We thank God for that much. We’ve gotten that far. It’s just the beginning. We’re not done.”
Heatkills.org, citing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that when outdoor temperatures range between 80 and 100 degrees, the interior of the car can get to 130 to 172 degrees.
“Children have died in cars with the temperature as low as 63 degrees. Basically, the car becomes a greenhouse. At 70 degrees on a sunny day, after a half hour, the temperature inside a car is 104 degrees. After an hour, it can reach 113 degrees,” stated Jan Null, adjunct professor at San Francisco State University, according to the website.