PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An attorney for a woman who left her toddler daughter in the car while she went to her job as a pediatric nurse practitioner said Thursday she didn’t realize she had left girl behind and was suicidal when she realized her child was dead.
Defense attorney David Terry said in a letter to other defense attorneys that Nicole Engler first begged to be allowed to kill herself, and tore out clumps of her hair when she realized the little girl named Remington was dead.
Engler, 38, faces a charge of second-degree manslaughter in the June 21 incident in Roseburg, about 180 miles (290 kilometers) south of Portland.
She was released on $50,000 bond the following day. Engler was on a suicide watch for the first 72 hours after her release, Terry said, and is being supported by family members who traveled to be with her and her husband.
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Engler had tried to conceive for 15 years before having the child and worshipped her, he said.
“I need to force the District Attorney to do the right thing and dismiss this case,” he wrote in his letter to members of the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. “I beseech you to use your voices and awesome powers of persuasion in helping me to accomplish that.”
Douglas County District Attorney Rick Wesenberg did not immediately return a call Thursday.
Terry said he had retained the services of an expert in “lapsed memory,” a theory that changes in routine cause otherwise responsible parents to forget they have children in the vehicle with them.
In the letter, Terry says that Engler didn’t usually drop Remington at day care but did so that day because her husband had worked an overnight shift and was sleeping.
Engler put her daughter in the car seat and instead drove to her job as a pediatric nurse practitioner, believing that her daughter was at her day care a few blocks away, David said.
She returned to the car for her lunch break and went to a drive-thru coffee stand but did not notice the child in the back seat, he said.
“When queried by the baristas as to how her daughter was, she responded, ‘Having another happy play day’ at daycare,” Terry wrote. “We can never know if her daughter was still alive at that moment.”
Engler returned to work and completed her shift at 4 p.m. and then discovered Remington blue and unconscious in the car, authorities said.
Engler rushed the toddler back into the medical facility, where staff performed CPR until an ambulance arrived. The child was pronounced dead at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg.
The temperature was about 80 degrees (26 degrees Celsius) when the child was discovered.
On a day that warm, the temperature inside a vehicle can rise to 109 degrees (43 Celsius) within 20 minutes, according to a National Safety Council report released earlier this month.
Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus