SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - The father of the four-year-old girl who died after being found in a hot car is being investigated by the Department of Family and Protective Services, according to a DFPS spokesperson.
Four-year-old Bella Rose Lindstrom and her 3-year-old sister Zoey were found locked in their family's truck Wednesday afternoon in Smith County. Bella did not survive. Their father Russel Lindstrom was home watching them and says he thought the girls were taking a nap.
We spoke to Lindstrom on Wednesday night after the incident. He decided to tell his story on camera Thursday morning, remembering and sharing about Bella and his surviving daughter, Zoey.
Lindstrom said he was in charge of watching his two daughters. He put them down for a nap and started doing laundry. He says they were not in their room when he went back to check. He started looking for them and went outside. He found them locked in the family's truck, a 2003 Nissan Frontier.
Lindstrom said he was able to get into the truck with the keys. He said his fiance left the truck unlocked because they just cleaned it out and were about to trade it in this afternoon. He believed the girls went outside, got inside the truck, and accidentally locked it. He said they had locked themselves in a car before during the winter, so the couple is always careful to hide the keys from them.
"I got to the end of the trail on the other side of the house and I saw the truck and I had a bad feeling," says Lindstrom. Bella and Zoey were locked inside. He pulled them out and realized Bella was not breathing.
He laid Zoey, who was responsive, on the cool concrete and then went back to his oldest, who was still unresponsive. He immediately started doing CPR on the child.
"I knew that if she had a chance at survival, then I needed to keep breathing for her," he said.
According to Lindstrom, Bella-Rose was extremely hot to the touch when he pulled her out, claiming he knew she was dead. Lindstrom said he served in the Army for seven and a half years as a first responder.
"In my head, I knew she was dead. I held my little girl dead in my arms. I've seen death before," Lindstrom says, "She was definitely my beautiful rose. She was very brave, courageous and loved to explore. I loved her to death."
"I don't know if I just lost my daughter or my whole family," said Lindstrom. "I may never get to see them again."
He says police asked him to come to the police station for questioning. He says they interrogated him and would not confirm if his daughter was alive or dead.
"They kept me detained at the Sheriff's Department for two or three hours interrogating me, treating me like I was some sort of common criminal," said Lindstrom.
He told them he wanted to get a lawyer if they were going to continue the conversation. He said he saw the search warrant for his home and it said "manslaughter."
Lindstrom said he had to wait until after the interrogation to go to the hospital and learn the fate of his daughter.
"They couldn't have the common decency to tell me the truth at any point in this, even though I'm pretty sure they knew," said Lindstrom.
"It's bad enough losing a daughter, but its even worse not knowing whether or not you have or not, and having to go all that time wondering were they able to revive her? Were they able to save my little girl? Is she dead?" he added.
As he told his story and rain began to pour down, he said he, "hopes this rain means it's the heavens crying over my daughter."
Lindstrom said authorities took all of his electronics and prescription medication. He says they also took a grinder, pipe and small amount of marijuana. He is angry because he told them he had several guns and other weapons and they did not take any of those.
He told KLTV, "no wonder people in my position get suicidal".
The Department of Family and Protective Services is working with the sheriff's office on the investigation. Shari Pulliam with DFPS said that the department has no history with the family.
Pulliam said that authorities are investigating the father for “neglectful supervision,” and will be looking into who was supposed to be watching the children and how they ended up locked in a vehicle long enough for this to happen. She says they will also be looking at placement options for the other daughter, whether it’s with family or elsewhere. CPS is not seeking custody of her at this time. The girl was released from the hospital on Thursday and she and her mother will be staying with family during the course of the investigation.
Bella and Zoey's grandmother says Zoey is doing well. The family is coping with Bella's death and did not want to go on camera.
Right now, authorities are in the early stages of their investigation, but they’ll compare their findings with law enforcement who will file charges if they see fit. The truck has been taken to the Smith County crime lab for processing.
Pulliam said the preliminary investigation indicates this is a heat-related death. Pulliam said that if the autopsy does show that Bella’s death is heat-related, this will be the second child in Texas who has died from heat-related death involving a vehicle in Texas this year.
Pulliam urged parents and caretakers to keep their vehicles locked when parked at home.
"Children often enter these vehicles to play then cannot get out," said Pulliam. "Children should be properly supervised at all times knowing their whereabouts."
The sheriff's office said the criminal investigative division is studying the incident.