Mother faces jail for leaving children in hot sun

A woman in Ohio could be imprisoned for 15 years after exposing her three small children to severe sunburn at a county fair last week.

Eve Hibbits, 31, appeared for a first court hearing yesterday. Prosecutors have charged her on three counts of endangerment in a highly unusual case. Ms Hibbits has already spent a week in jail.

She was at the fair with her three children, a two-year-old daughter and twin sons of 10 months, when an officer approached her because of the apparent distress of the children. "As soon as I looked at them, I could tell," said Sheriff Fred Abdalla of Jefferson County in eastern Ohio. "It looked like the children had been dipped in red paint. It was 95 degrees and they were literally baking."

The sheriff arrested the woman on the spot. "If I ignore this and something happens, then shame on me," he said. "There was no sunscreen or nothing on those children."

Ms Hibbits was offered bail on a surety of $15,000 (nearly £10,000) but could not raise it.

The three children were diagnosed with second-degree burns at a nearby medical centre. "We treated the minors for second-degree sunburn," a spokeswoman said. "It means any sunburn that is beginning to blister. They were blistering." After being treated with cold compresses and ointments, the children were released.

With the possibility of the children's mother going to prison, the state's child welfare office has been asked to consider their future. The sheriff said: "Children's Services is going to be involved. She just has to get a message sent to her that something has to be done."

America has witnessed recently an increasing number of cases in which the authorities have intervened against potential abuse by parents. Several mothers have been prosecuted for leaving their children in cars during heatwaves, with the windows closed. Legal experts said this was the first prosecution involving the exposure of children to sunburn.

Ms Hibbits's case will be closely watched by parents and civil rights lawyers across the country while schoolchildren are still on holiday and temperatures remain high.

The widespread use of sunscreen is fairly new. A few decades ago, making it a crime not to apply it to children would have been unthinkable. Parents have also been penalised because of the effects of their smoking near children. In 15 states, separated spouses have lost custody of their children because of their smoking habits.

In March, a minor was successful in suing to end compulsory visits to his mother on the ground that she exposed him to cigarette smoke, although she had never smoked in his presence. In the case, heard in Utica, New York State, a judge ordered the mother, identified as Johnita D, 39, to stop smoking altogether if she wanted to see her son again.

Her lawyer, Joan Shkane, denounced the ruling as intrusive. "Are we opening the door to urine tests now?Will he [the boy's father] be allowed to take air samples before the child visits?" Ms Shkane said.

Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballLive: Latest news from Champions League draw
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Scrum Master (Agile, Java, team recruitment)

£45000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Scrum M...

Junior Asset Manager

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Junior As...

HR Generalist (standalone) - Kent - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Generalist / HR Officer (standalo...

Oracle Developer/IT Analyst

£35000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading financia...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?