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Case remains open for baby left in car (video)

By JR Ortega
July 29, 2013 at 2:29 a.m.
Updated July 30, 2013 at 2:30 a.m.

Caleb Grahamn doesn't consider himself a hero, but just a regular guy. Grahamn was spending the day in Victoria on his birthday when he came upon a crying baby in the Walmart parking lot inside a locked car.

CUERO - Tristan Pressler hugged her 5-month-old son, Brayden, tighter Monday.

A day earlier, the 19-year-old mother helplessly watched as a 14-month-old baby girl wailed from inside a locked, sweltering car at the Victoria Wal-Mart parking lot.

"I was more mad than anything," Pressler said. "How could you just forget a baby?"

This question seemed to weigh on a lot of minds Monday, as people took to social media trying to make sense of what could have been a tragedy.

Victoria Police Officer Aaron Gonzalez, who responded to the call, reunited the baby with her grandmother, who was shopping inside Wal-Mart. The baby was estimated to have been in the car for at least an hour and was uninjured.

"She was crying, saying she had forgotten the baby," Gonzalez said Monday of the grandmother.

Gonzalez would not disclose the names of the baby's parents or grandmother as the department continues to investigate the case to present to the Victoria district attorney, who will determine whether to pursue charges of child endangerment.

On Sunday, Pressler and her mother, Tracy Pressler, were walking toward their car when Tracy's son, Caleb Grahmann, 18, came walking down from Row 15 with his mother's boyfriend Darwin Noack.

"There's a baby crying," Grahmann said. "I don't think there is anybody else in the car."

They watched helplessly, as Tracy Pressler called 911. Her only inkling of hope was that the baby had enough energy to cry, meaning there was still time.

Once the officer arrived, he held the window, which was cracked open less than an inch, as Noack wedged his hand in and unlocked the door.

The entire ordeal was enough to haunt Tracy Pressler. She tossed and turned Sunday night as she attempted to sleep but said she could not erase the child's stare from her mind.

"I was the one crying," she said, tears welling in her eyes once again. "She was just ... sweat. ... Her hair was wet, and she was just crying, looking at me."

While she does not know the grandmother's story, she's glad the matter is being investigated.

Gonzalez, who has been an officer with the department for about a year, said he has responded to several calls of children left in vehicles. Most are parents who accidentally lock the child in the car and just need the door unlocked, but Sunday's incident was the worst he's seen so far.

Incidents like Sunday's are a nationwide trend that Jan Null, a meteorologist with the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, has been tracking since 2002.

Null began tracking such trends after a 5-month-old died after being left in a car while his father played video games.

As a meteorologist, Null was tasked with learning how hot vehicles get.

"I found a couple of very limited studies," Null said, remembering how surprised he was at the lack of information.

Now, Null has investigated more than 500 fatal cases in which a child was left in a car.

Null was surprised Victoria's case didn't end with a fatality. He estimated with a temperature about 95, the internal temperature, even with a window cracked open, would reach about 140 degrees.

"That's really amazing," he said.

Tracy Pressler and her children said they'll never forget the sounds and look of the child.

The three said they've been touted as heroes, but really, they just want caregivers to take one more second to check their cars - one more second to save a life.

"We're just regular people who did the right thing," Tracy Pressler said.

Related coverage: Gene Weingarten's Pulitzer Prize-winning feature titled "Fatal Distraction."

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