• Attorneys for woman accused of 3-year-old's hot car death may use ‘autopilot' for defense

    By: Jeff Deal , James Tutten


    ORLANDO, Fla. - A list of defense experts is giving an inside look at how attorneys for former Orlando day care worker Deborah St. Charles may be planning to defend herself in the death of a 3-year-old in a hot vehicle.

    St. Charles is facing an aggravated manslaughter charge after police said she left 3-year-old Myles Hill in the back of a hot day care van in 2017.

    An expert who has testified in court cases like this before, believes people just lose awareness that children are even in the car.


    Some of his writings show he believes people get in such a routine, their brains go into autopilot and they might continue on to work or somewhere else, thinking everything is normal.

    St. Charles told WFTV in May she would never harm a child.

    "I understand my negligence, but I would never do nothing like this on purpose," St. Charles said.

    The former day care driver is facing aggravated manslaughter charges after prosecutors said in 2017 she left Myles in a hot van for hours outside the now-defunct Little Miracles Daycare.

    WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said that's why the defense plans to call Dr. David Diamond as an expert witness in the case.

    “What the defense is trying to show is, when this defendant left the child in the van, it wasn't on the basis of reckless disregard for human life,” said Sheaffer.

    Diamond is a psychology professor at the University of South Florida, who has studied the issue of children left in hot cars for the past 15 years.

    He has worked closely with Amber Rollins, with the national nonprofit group, Kids and Cars.

    “Dr. Diamond has really dug deep and studied our human memory," Rollins said.

    She says Diamond believes parents and caretakers simply lose awareness there's a child in the car and their brains go into autopilot while they are driving.

    He cites four main factors -- a stressful or highly distracting experience before or during the drive, sleep deprivation, a change in the driving route that day and an unusually quiet or sleeping child.

    Documents show he believes it's a tragedy that impacts people of all walks of life.

    “Probably like a lot of people out there now, they thought this could never happen to them and then it did,” Rollins said.

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