Police: Father left child in car while attending court in Clearwater

- The doors were locked, the windows were up, and his little girl was inside. A Clearwater man was arrested Thursday after allegedly leaving his 4-year-old daughter in the car with the sunroof cracked for two-hours while he was at a court hearing.

Dean Baaj had a 9 a.m. hearing Thursday for a domestic violence injunction.  Officials say the 51-year-old got to the Pinellas County Courthouse early, heading inside around 8:45 a.m.

“When he left the car he rolled up the windows, he locked the car, and he left the child inside, leaving the sunroof open for some ventilation,” said Rob Shaw with the Clearwater Police Department.

That child is his 4-year-old daughter. Her mother didn’t want to go on-camera but tells FOX 13 News the little girl was strapped into her car seat, with candy, a cup of milk and an iPad. 

According to Clearwater police, she was inside the hot car like that for two hours before someone heard a voice yelling for help.

“Someone who was walking by noticed this little girl all by herself inside the car all alone,” Shaw said.

We’re told court bailiffs managed to pull her out of the locked car through the sunroof, rescuing the child while Baaj was still inside at the hearing.

“I don’t think anybody knows how long these hearings can go, they can be quite some length, so who knows how long this might have gone on if this person hadn’t intervened,” said Shaw.

At that time of the day, the temperature outside was already 82 degrees.  Investigators say this happy ending is a good reminder that kids should never be left alone in vehicles 

“The heat is one issue alone, but what if she crawled out the sunroof and started to wander out into traffic, what if a suspect with who-knows-what in mind had come along and plucked her from the car,” Shaw said. “There are so many different things that can go wrong when you leave a child unsupervised.”

Baaj is charged with felony child neglect, and bonded out of jail Thursday.

The little girl’s mother tells FOX 13 News she was also at the court hearing and thought Baaj had left the little girl with a friend. She now has full custody of her daughter and is just thankful she’s not hurt.

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