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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'