Purcellville man charged in toddler's death

Date: 2008-07-15

Purcellville man charged in toddler's death

July 15, 2008
By Gregg MacDonald and Jana Wagoner
Loudoun Times-Mirror

On July 8, 21-month-old Chase Harrison became a victim of many parents' worst nightmare.

The Purcellville boy, who was recently adopted from Russia, died after being left in his father's sport utility vehicle for most of the day.

The father, Miles Harrison, 49, of Purcellville, has been charged with manslaughter for Chase's death.

Shortly after 5 p.m. that Tuesday, Herndon Police officers and members of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department were called to a parking lot off Herndon Parkway for an unattended child in a silver GMC Yukon.

According to David Zorger, a co-founder of Project Solutions Group, a co-worker had first noticed the boy in the vehicle.

Chase's father is managing director of PSG’s relocation management division. Upon being notified, Miles Harrison ran outside to check the SUV.

Chase was there, dead in his child safety seat.

His father had to be hospitalized after finding out what had happened.

According to the Herndon Police Department, Harrison had forgotten to drop Chase off at day care that morning.

"The windows of the vehicle were rolled up," Lt. Jeff Coulter said. The high that day was 91 degrees.

Harrison has not yet been served with his arrest warrant. He was released from the hospital, but according to police, he had to be hospitalized a second time after questioning at the Herndon Police station. As of July 14, he remained hospitalized at a private medical facility. He will be served his arrest warrant upon his release. His wife, Carol, also was questioned by police.

Loudoun residents have responded with strong feelings.

“I've never done this, but I have to say, I understand how easy it can be,” one person wrote on an online Brambleton community forum. “It's actually been one of my worst fears ... when they were little and sleeping in the back seat, and I was tired and running late for a meeting, yeah, it could have happened.”

Others debated what sort of punishment Harrison should receive.

“I don't care if they throw away the key on this guy,” one person wrote on the same forum.

Others felt that was too harsh.

“This guy is already experiencing the ultimate punishment, I'm sure,” another wrote.

The name of the day care Chase attended has not been released, but day-care centers have varying policies regarding what to do when a child does not show up.

A representative at Minnieland in Stone Ridge said that the center always call parents if a child does not come to day care and it hasn't been notified in advance.

At Kindercare in Leesburg, a representative said there is no written policy to call parents when a child does not attend.

For La Petite Academy in Ashburn, the approach varies depending on the situation. They do ask that parents call when their child will not be coming to day care.

Loudoun County Public Schools' policy is to contact a parent any time a student is absent.

“This event serves as an important reminder that all parents and guardians need to understand the dangers of leaving children unattended for any amount of time in a vehicle,” Herndon Police said in a release.

Belinda Buescher, public information officer for the Fairfax County Department of Family Services, said 602 cases investigated by her department in 2007 were for "inadequate supervision."

Buescher said the department does not break down the data for the number of cases of children left in vehicles but said those reports are not uncommon.

She said, "Anecdotal reports from our CPS staff indicate that it is not unusual to receive reports of children having been left unattended in cars, both intentionally and unintentionally.”

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