Dead baby's mother freed

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AN AMERICAN woman who left her 10-day-old baby to die in a sweltering car while she played video poker was given five years' probation yesterday.

Gail Baker, 28, a former US army sergeant, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the August 1997 death of her daughter, Joy. Fighting back tears, Baker told South Carolina Circuit Judge Jackson Gregory: "There are no words to express how I feel. Joy was my pride and joy". Baker, then assigned to Hunter Army Airfield outside Savannah in Georgia, was originally charged with homicide by child abuse, punishable by up to life in prison. She spent 15 months in prison awaiting trial.

Baker left her child in the car for more than seven hours, while she played video poker at a casino. The car's windows were closed and the temperature outside reached 30C.

The woman never went to the car but looked out of the casino door to check on her daughter, police said. When she drove home that evening - after her husband had gone to the casino to fetch her - she noticed that the child was no longer breathing.

Investigators concluded the baby had died of dehydration after about two hours in the car.