Pinellas County

Child protective services investigated family before Largo baby died in 109-degree mobile home

LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) -- The family of a Largo baby who died inside a hot mobile home Friday had three previous contacts with child protective services under the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, News Channel 8 has learned.

Largo police arrested William Francis Hendrickson, age 25, on Thursday evening after they say his eight-month old son was found unresponsive in a mobile home where the temperature was 109 degrees.

Investigators say officers responded to the home at 12:30 p.m. to assist Pinellas County Child Protection Investigators with a welfare check of two children at the King's Manor Mobile Home Park, located at 1399 S. Belcher Rd.

Hendrickson, his girlfriend and his parents all live in the home.

Upon arrival, officers found the eight-month-old boy in his play pin, unresponsive due to extreme heat in the trailer and the A/C not working in the bedroom.

"It was a very [small] space, the windows were closed to this room. The temperature was very high. Detectives got a thermometer and measured the temperature in the room and it was 109 degrees," said Lt. Randall Chaney, with Largo Police Department.

After calling for Largo Fire Rescue paramedics, Officer Albin Soto immediately began infant CPR on the child.

Officer Soto was later relieved by paramedics, who continued resuscitation efforts. The child was pronounced dead at the scene.

Largo police detectives began an investigation into the circumstances of the boy's death.

Probable cause was found for the arrest of the children's father, William Francis Hendrickson, for aggravated manslaughter in the death of his son and child neglect for the condition of his two-year-old daughter, who was transported to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg due to severe dehydration.

According to detectives, Hendrickson was previously told Wednesday by social services not to leave the children in the hot environment of the bedroom. Child Protection Investigators also offered Hendrickson another place to stay, but he refused according to the affidavit.

Detectives recorded the temperature in the mobile home's bedroom at 109 degrees at 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon.

Neighbors were shocked.

"They're good, they're good people," said Mike Bobbitt.

Another neighbor, Diane Armstrong said, "That's just so sad. Very sad."

A grandparent wouldn't grant an interview but briefly told News Channel 8 that authorities are to blame.

"We're working on communication with attorneys," he said. "What's going on and the incompetence of CPI and police department, that let this child die when it could have been prevented."

DCF Secretary Mike Carroll released the following statement regarding the tragic incident:

The circumstances surrounding this baby's death are horrible and we are devastated by this loss. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is conducting a death investigation and DCF will deploy a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team to review all interactions this family has had with Florida's child welfare system. We will also support law enforcement in any way appropriate to hold anyone responsible fully accountable."

The DCF said the family was investigated three times and had been receiving services from a provider contracted by Eckerd Kids, a decision made following an investigation earlier this year.

The deceased child's sibling is in the care of relatives, according to the DCF.

Online jail booking records show Hendrickson was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on the felony charges at 7:21 p.m. Thursday. His bond is set at $150,000.

The mother of the children is currently in jail on unrelated charges.

Largo police would like to remind citizens of the dangers of Florida's high temperatures in confined or poorly ventilated spaces, especially for children, the elderly, and those with special medical concerns. Be aware of the signs of dehydration, heat stress, and heat stroke and take steps to prevent them.

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