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3 children suffer brain damage from being left in hot car

Ashley Snell (Source: Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff's Office) Ashley Snell (Source: Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff's Office)

Investigators said three young children have brain damage after being found in a scorching hot car nearly two months ago and now their mother faces charges because of it.

VALVERDA, LA (WAFB) - The Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff's Office said the children were found unconscious in the car on May 22. Initially, investigators thought it was an accident, but their mother, Ashley Snell, 26, is behind bars now.

It happened in Valverda in Pointe Coupee Parish, which is just south of Livonia. Because of the extent of the children's injuries, it's taken investigators until now to arrest the mother.

Locked in the car for an extended period of time with temperatures reaching 108 degrees inside is what Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff Bud Torres said has three children clinging to life.

"One 4-year-old, one 18-month-old and one 6-month-old," said Torres. "Two of them are still hospitalized and one is still blind."

Torres said Snell was visiting friends at a home on Valverda Road in May when she allegedly left her children unattended in the vehicle for an extended period of time. Authorities said the car was running, but the air conditioner was off. They said the husband of the friend Snell was visiting found the children. All three were unconscious when paramedics arrived.

"They had some blistering on their skin, the blindness and unconsciousness, and I didn't know that was as far reaching with heat exhaustion," Torres explained.

Those symptoms are why deputies sent a blood sample from all three children to an East Coast hospital to make sure they weren't sick from something else, like poisoning. Those results came back negative, leaving heat exhaustion as the only option.

Investigators said all three have brain damage, but whether it's temporary or permanent remains a question. The 4-year-old is still blind and at Children's Hospital in New Orleans with her 6-month-old sister. The 18-month-old boy has been released to the Department of Child and Family Services.

Snell was arrested Tuesday. Her case will now head to District Attorney Ricky Ward.

"I don't know if I've ever seen a case where children were left unattended in a car and were left with such severe injuries," said Ward.

Snell is charged with three counts of second-degree cruelty to juveniles and three counts of attempted second-degree murder.

She was booked into the Pointe Coupee Parish Detention Center with a $300,000 bond. Her charges carry a maximum sentence of 270 years. The case now heads to a grand jury.

Snell's attorney released a statement Thursday evening. 

"Ms. Snell's children received injuries as the result of a horrible and tragic accident. In no manner whatsoever did Ms. Snell ever intend any harm to her children. Ms. Snell's actions do not rise to the level of criminal negligence. Ms. Snell is innocent of any criminal wrongdoing. Ashley and her family pray daily for the continued recovery of her children."

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