Charges: O'Fallon dad 'passed out' drunk while toddler dies in hot car

News-DemocratJune 21, 2013 

St. Clair County prosecutors filed a charge of involuntary manslaughter Friday against an O'Fallon man who police say was intoxicated and had passed "out on the floor" of his home while his toddler son was dying in a hot car on their driveway.

Wayne M. Hubert, 32, of 323 Joy Drive in O'Fallon, is charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter of a family member in connection with the death Thursday afternoon of his son.

Hubert took his 1-year-old son, known as "N.H." in court records, out to his vehicle, a black Hyundai Elantra four-door with a dark-colored interior, at about 2:30 p.m. with plans to make a trip, according to O'Fallon Police Capt. Jeff Wild.

The boy, who was strapped into a car seat, was left unattended in the car without air conditioning and "with only one window partially open" when the outside air temperature ranged from 85 to 90 degrees, according to the criminal complaint.

Involuntary manslaughter is a Class 2 criminal felony, which under Illinois law carries a potential prison sentence of between three and 14 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Hubert also faces charges of endangering the life of a child, a Class 2 felony for leaving the boy in the car unattended and a Class A misdemeanor for leaving his 4-year-old daughter in the family home unattended, according to the complaints. The daughter also is identified by her initials, N.H.

Hubert's Facebook page contains multiple pictures of him with his wife and two children.

Police pursued charges because they believe the father was intoxicated at the time the boy was placed in the vehicle and that those circumstances played a role in the boy's death, Wild said.

"He went back in the house and became distracted," Wild said. "When the mother came home 2 1/2 hours later, the child was found."

Hubert's bail was set at $250,000 and he remained in the St. Clair County Jail as of Friday evening. The charges state that he "consumed alcohol to a level which caused him to pass out on the floor of his home" while he was in charge of his son and daughter.

About a year ago, the Huberts moved into their one-story house on the corner lot in the 300 block of Joy. By early evening Friday, there was no indication of the tragedy that had taken place there a day earlier.

The small, blue-colored pool where the Hubert children frolicked frequently during the last month with their dad sat next to the fence. A purple soccer ball lay a few feet away. Also close by was the gas grill on the patio adjacent to the backdoor.

On the grill, a blue beer can.

Neighbors described Wayne Hubert as a loving and dutiful father who was seen often outdoors playing with his son and daughter.

"Every time you saw him out there, he was cutting the grass," said Craig Gross, who lives across the street.

Neighbors also remembered the little boy as friendly and energetic.

"He was out there playing and giggling in the pool," Gross said of him. "It's a horrible thing. A little kid like that -- it's a crying shame."

Police were called at 5:07 p.m. on Thursday. Neighbors in the 300 block of Joy Drive said the mother was wailing in the front yard with the deceased child in her arms. According to St. Clair County Coroner Rick Stone, the child, less than a month from his second birthday, had a temperature of 104.6 degrees when rescue workers arrived.

The boy was pronounced dead at the scene at 5:52 p.m., Stone said.

The car in which the child was left was towed from the scene Thursday evening by police. It was brought back Friday morning and placed in the exact same spot where it was parked at the time the child was left in the car, its tires lined up with paint markings made by police in the driveway the day before. It appeared officers were testing the temperature in the car, which had a rear window rolled part-way down.

According to the National Weather Service, the high temperature Thursday in the St. Louis area was 91, which came at 4:16 p.m. The baby was in the car at that time.

 

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 618-239-2626. Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 618-239-2533.