A Mississippi Coast mom on Thursday pleaded guilty to causing the hot-car death of her 10-month-old son.
Initially arrested on a second-degree murder charge, Elizabeth Marie Barhonovich pleaded guilty to a bill of information charging her with manslaughter in the June 14 death of her son, Kash Barhonovich.
She was given a 20-year sentence to run consecutive to a 6-year sentence on an auto burglary conviction in Harrison County.
No one knows how long Barhonovich’s 10-month-old son sat in a van while his mom — on a days-long binge on meth and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax — was inside their home in the 14000 block of Arthur Street in rural Vancleave.
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When asked what she had done, Barhonovich, dressed in a black and white jail uniform, did offer her admissions.
“I did leave him in the car for an extended period of time,” she told Judge Robert Krebs. “Bottom line, it was my fault.”
An autopsy revealed the child died of hyperthermia, or an elevated body temperature.
The day of Kash’s death, the temperature was 89 degrees but the heat index reached between 90 and 100 degrees that afternoon, according to an official at the National Weather Service.
The temperature in the van Kash was left in, however, would have risen around 30 degrees more within a half hour, officials said.
“This is not a case of a horrible accident or mistake,” Assistant District Attorney Angel Myers McIlrath said in a news release. “We have a mother who was at the tail end of a days-long drug binge. She chose drugs over her child and her child died for her addiction.”
McIlrath will replace Tony Lawrence as district attorney for Jackson, George and Greene counties when he takes his seat on the state Court of Appeals in January.
Other children have died in hot-car deaths in South Mississippi.
In 2016, former Long Beach Police Officer Cassie Barker was arrested for causing daughter Cheyenne Hyer’s hot-car death. She is awaiting trial on a charge of second-degree murder.
So far in 2018, 48 children have died in hot cars — one less than the record number of hot-car deaths of children reported in 2010 in the United States, according to the National Safety County.
For safety tips to prevent a child’s hot-car death, visit kidsandcars.org.