The lawyer for a Kansas foster dad who left a 10-month-old in a hot car says the first-degree murder charge against his client is too harsh — and the baby's grandmother said "it blows my mind."
Seth Jackson, 29, was held on $250,000 bail after a hearing where prosecutors unveiled the charges but provided no new details about the case.
Jackson's defense lawyer, John Stang told NBC News that the child's death was purely accidental and the circumstances don't support a first-degree murder charge, which carries a life sentence with a minimum of 20 years behind bars.
"Overcharged, in my opinion," Stang said. "Rather high for a mistake. I'm not trying to say it's not a horrible loss. The death of a child is an awful thing. But this person is looking at 15 more years than someone who was driving drunk and ran into a car and killed someone."
He said Jackson's situation is far different than the case of Ross Harris, who is charged with murder in Georgia for leaving his 22-month-old son in a hot car all day — allegedly because he wanted to live a "child-free life."
"What I have seen thus far, this was not intentional," Stang said, adding that he has seen no evidence that Jackson and his partner neglected or abused their two adopted children and four foster children.
"He is grieving for the child," the lawyer added. "He feels awful. He knows he made a mistake and he accepts responsibility for the mistake. He knows because of his actions, Kadillak is dead."
Police said last week that Jackson picked up his foster daughter — called Anna by his family and Kadillak by her biological relatives — from daycare and then left her strapped in her car seat while he went into his Wichita home with his 5-year-old son.
He "somehow forgot" she was still in the car for two hours — on a 90-degree day — until he saw something on TV that jogged his memory, police said.
"The death of a child is an awful thing. But this person is looking at 15 more years than someone who was driving drunk and ran into a car and killed someone."
The child's maternal grandmother, Cindy Poe, told NBC News that she has many questions about Jackson's actions that day but was surprised by the murder charge.
"It blows my mind," she said. "He loved those kids and they loved him so much. I'm mad, but at the same time, accidents do happen. I'm sure he is beat down inside. It's hard to say what the charge should be."
Jackson was initially held on suspicion of child endangerment. After police handed over the investigation to prosecutors, it was upped to murder.
Dan Dillon, a spokesman for the Sedgwick County district attorney, said only that after reviewing the case "we determined these were appropriate charges based on the evidence."
Kansas law calls for a first-degree murder charge when someone is killed intentionally and with premeditation or "in the commission of...any inherently dangerous felony." In Jackson's case, that could be child endangerment.
Kadillak's death has also triggered a state investigation because she was a foster child.
“We remain deeply saddened that this child suffered such a horrific death," Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said Wednesday.
"We support the charges filed in this case, and we will aid in any way possible the prosecution of the defendant.”
First published July 30 2014, 2:07 PM