Relatives of Katrina Patrice Harringan, the 3-year-old girl who died Monday after being locked inside a closed automobile, said yesterday they were puzzled by accounts of the child's last request.
"I feel so hurt, I just can't understand all of this," said Annette Harrigan, 20, the child's mother, as she rested at her parent's home in Northeast Washington.
What troubled her and one of the child's aunts was a statement attributed to the child's baby sitter, who told police that the girl asked to stay in the car rather than enter a Falls Chuch office building.
"I just know my baby would have wanted to get out of that car," her mother said.
"I just don't understand it," agreed Brenda Harrigan, an aunt of the dead girl, who was nicknamed "Teeney" by family members. "Unless Teeney was asleep she would have never asked to stay in the car," the aunt said. "She always wanted to get out and go places with people."
As relative of the child -- the fourth Washington-area resident to die from heat-related causes -- gathered at the family home, Fairfax County prosecutors said they will await results of laboratory tests before deciding whether to bring criminal charges against the sitter, Kathy Elizabeth Daniel, 24, of Hyattsville.
An autopsy performed Tuesday revealed that the child died of heat-stroke induced by temperatures inside the car that police say probably climbed to more than 130 degrees.
The baby sitter told police she left Katrina along for only 15 minutes while she went inside her Falls Church office. Falls Church police however, have said they believe the girl had been left in the car for nearly two hours.
"Whenever I took her places she would always roll down the car windows. She knows how to open doors," said Brenda Harrigan, who along with the child's mother, works as a cashier at a Zayre's store in Silver Spring.
"I'm angry," the aunt said. "I think Kathy was upset, careless, whatever because anyone knows you can't trust a kid alone in a car. Anyway, you don't ask a child whether she wants to stay in a car or go with you. You have to be firm and tell them."
Daniel told investigators that she left the child alone in her 1969 Ford LTD parked in an unshaded lot outside the Falls Church office of a food service company where she worked as a saleswoman. Police theorize that Daniel may have believed she would soon return and begin her rounds but may have lost her sense of time when she entered her office and was fired.
Daniel, who shared a Hyattsville apartment with the girl and her mother, declined to comment yesterday on the incident. "I don't want any publicity," she told a reporter.
"I wish I'd taken her with me to work," said Brenda Harrigan, who remembered her niece as a child who loved to dance, talk and play with cards. "At breakfast on Monday I was talking about letting her go to work with me, but Kathy said she would take her. I told her to bring [katrina] to me if she had to leave her alone."
According to Brenda Harrigan, Katrina until recently lived with several cousins and other relatives in Northeast Washington. "Teeney cried a lot when she was at her grandparents' and said she wanted to be with her mother, that she missed her," said Harrigan. The child's mother had lived with another sister in Chillum but recently they moved into Daniel's Hyattsville apartments. The sisters met Daniel through a close friend at work, Brenda Harrigan said.
On Monday Daniel told police that she drove to a fast food restaurant in Arlington when she could not awaken the child whome she found lying motionless on the back seat of her car. At the restaurant she bought several hamburgers and a glass of water, which she splashed on the child's face, hoping to revive her. When that failed she drove Katrina three blocks to Arlington Hospital where the child was pronounced dead.
Harrigan said yesterday that Katrina's mother was admitted Tuesday night to Howard University Hospital for treatment of shock. She was released yesterday.
Fairfax County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Gallahue said that Daniel could face a charge of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.