Mom pleads guilty after hot car deaths

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) – A woman whose children died after they were left in her hot car while she worked pleaded guilty to two counts of Involuntary Manslaughter and one count of Felony Child Neglect.

Brittney Downing, 23, will face up to 25 years in prison when she is sentenced in March.

Downing left her children strapped inside their car seats outside a hotel near Virginia Center Commons in May 2013.

Vaughn Jones,  Downing’s attorney, said his client was a loving mother trying to provide for her children.

“There was nothing in this that she did. Nothing at all that she did with a selfish intent or thinking of herself,” said Jones.

Prosecutors and Defense attorneys struck a  plea deal Wednesday, months before Downing was supposed to go to trial for murder.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor told the judge that Downing had just started a job at the Comfort Suites on Telegraph Rd. when she left her 20-month-old son, Jelani Downing-Batson, and three-month-old daughter, Jade Downing-Batson, in her car in the hotel’s parking lot.

Taylor said Downing went to the car once during her eight-hour shift to give the baby a half a bottle of milk and the older child some chips and juice, but never realized the children were in distress.

Downing told authorities that it was not until she arrived at her Prince George County apartment and laid her son on the bed and realized something was wrong.

Prosecutors said Downing’s roommate called 911. When EMS crews arrived, they tried to perform CPR on the child, but he died. His baby sister, who was on life support, also died four days later.

Downing later told authorities she had no one to care for her kids because her family was not an option.

“This was a tragedy and the poor decision of a mother,” said Taylor. “But a purposeful decision of bringing her children to work and leaving them in the car had the regretfully ultimate consequence.”

Downing was released on bond. Her attorney said he plans to call a number of witnesses during her sentencing in March.

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