Mother whose kids died after being left in car while she worked is now free

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PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Va. - A mother whose children died after they were left in a hot car was freed from jail following her sentencing hearing at Henrico court.

Brittney Downing, 23,  faced 25 years in prison, but served just 72 days.

"We all knew going in, that this was not going to be an easy decision,” Henrico County Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor said.

In August 2013, Downing pleaded guilty to two counts of Involuntary Manslaughter and one count of Felony Child Neglect.  In May 2013, Downing left her children in her car for eight hours while she worked her shift at a Glen Allen hotel. The children later died.

During her sentencing Tuesday, Downing's family described her as a bright, intelligent and fun loving person; a woman deeply rooted in her faith.

But since the death of her children, Downing’s mother worried about her daughter.

“Sometimes I wonder if she’ll make it through this without taking her own life,” Pamela Downing said.  “She is fragile.  She was raised in a sheltered environment.”

On the stand, Brittney Downing broke down, telling the judge: "It was my fault."

A video was shown in court of Brittney speaking before her father’s church congregation at Victorious Christian Loving Ministries, reflecting on her life.

"I want to talk about life lessons,” Brittney said. “I would never do anything to hurt my children."

"There's not going to be any answer that's going to satisfy anybody as to why a mother who by all accounts, a loving, caring, doting parent will leave her children in the car for that long,” Downing's attorney Vaughan Jones said.

Prosecutors said Downing had just started a job at the Comfort Suites on Telegraph Rd. when she left her 20-month-old son Jelani and three-month-old daughter Jade 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 milk and the older child some chips and juice, but she never realized the children were in distress.

Downing told authorities that it was not until she arrived at her Prince George County apartment later that day and laid her son on the bed that she 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, 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 young lady who made a bad decision," Taylor said. "But a bad decision based on the fact that she did not think she could go to anyone for help which regretfully was not true."

Most of Downing's 10-year sentence was suspended. Prosecutors argued she should have served more prison time than the 72 days she spent behind bars.

While Taylor pointed out the deadly, though unintended, consequences of Downing's reckless acts, defense attorney Vaughan Jones told the judge that Downing would learn nothing from jail time.

"The reality is you can give two days or you can give 200 years," Jones said. "The only punishment she’s feeling now is the loss of her babies.”

“She’s still getting counseling.  And she’s been counseling ever since she’s been released from jail.  And she might need counseling for years to come," he added.

Prosecutors hope this case will send a message to other parents.

“What I think we can do better from here on out is to make it part of a Public Service Announcement that under no circumstances any adult leave a child unattended for any extended period of time in a vehicle….period,” Taylor said.


  • That's Right

    Oh it leaves a message all right! Left your babies in a car to die and then hope/pray you go before Judge Hicks! This is an insult to those babies,is their lives really worth so little?! What will she do with the next babies she has?

    • Ty Ty

      You are right that’s right 72 days wasn’t none thing to her compared to the life’s she took I guess she is to good to ask the baby daddy for help that’s why young women should not be able to have babies young there mind is to mature enough to handle the responsible

  • paula

    Othat right have you ever made a wrong move in life or are you so perfect that you never did anything wrong. Atleast she was out there working and not trying to use your tax to take care of her children. She is suffering everyday for what she done. Thank God you wasn’ t the judge.

    • That's Right

      You’re right there cause if I were the judge this killer would be serving YEARS not DAYS! No justice for 2 innocent babies that didn’t ask to be born. Hopefully this girl will get on birth control and not have more children she obviously couldn’t care for or love!

  • Kim

    I agree with That’s Right and this has nothing to do with other people doing anything wrong. We all do wrong at times BUT there is no good reason EVER to leave a child or even a pet in a car especially during the summer. It has been said time and time again what happens yet people continue to do it. I am a single parent as well who has struggled in the past with child care but I DID find someone to watch my kid so I could work. It’s called hiring a babysitter and many do not charge upfront so you can pay them once you get paid, some will even work with you if you don’t have enough and I know for a fact that Social Services can help you if your babysitter is registered with the county. Stories like these not only make me very sad but anger me because there is no excuse for being so irresponsible.

  • Gail

    So according to the justice system in Virginia, parents can leave their children in hot cars & boil them to death & will then be given a smile & a pat on the back & told “good job” now go home. I scream BS!!! It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you CAN NOT leave children or animals in a hot car!!! People who are that ignorant have absolutely no business having children or animals!

  • Tom C.

    I am sure that Brittany will be in her own prison for the rest of her life. Her guilt and grief is a worse torture and prison than taxpayers can ever provide.

    • That's Right

      I don’t know Tom according to her Facebook she’s taking sexy selfies already looking for another baby daddy so I don’t think there is too much suffering going on. She’s got more free time to party right Brittney?!

  • kenny

    typical of these cases.its just sickening,really is.She should be sterilized and jailed for life.Rob a bank and get 10-50 years in jail,you kill babies and get nothing.These babies were nothing more then a tax check and free ride for her.People have killed their dogs in cars and gotten more time.Henrico seems to have listened to eric holder on how cases from here on should be prosecuted.To the person that brought up making a mistake?the only mistake here was someone impregnating this women to begin with

  • eric

    I believe she should have received the maximum penalty. But something tells me Virginia couldn’t because of backlash since her skin color is not white. A real shame we can’t all be judged, accused, and treated equally.

  • Pat

    This sentence makes me sick to my stomach! Why did this judge give so little value to these children’s lives! She need to be left in a hot car for eight hours!

  • Priscilla Marie Montcalm

    OK, maybe we can agree that at the time of this, it wasn’t public knowledge that kids left in vehicles DIE. Plain and simple, if your gonna leave your kid in the car, your risking their lives. It seems like a lot of this problem is childcare, it wasn’t that long ago, I seen a story on a woman who lost custody of her kids. All because she left them in the car to go to a job interview. Why is everyone tearing this woman down more that she already has been, she’s suffered the greatest punishment already. Can we now focus on making sure that everyone with children understands the consequences of leaving their kid in a car. And also maybe figure out what to do about the childcare issues that these woman are facing. I know if I didn’t have a family to watch my kids, I wouldn’t be able to work. Childcare is expensive, and yes there are programs that can help you pay for it, but they have to be applied for planned out and scheduled. Somewhere a mother going for a job interview can turn to at the last minute. This Mother seemed to be active in her church, did they not have a program that would have helped her? People need to learn that vehicles aren’t babysitters.

  • eric

    PRISCILLA MARIE MONTCALM, we all know. It’s public knowledge along with common since. No life should be spared for some dollars.

  • Gerry

    This is just sick. Did she try to commit suicide in the can? I sure hope she gets her tubes cut and a tat on her forehead with her crime.

  • Teresa

    Courts are always more lenient on women….there’s a guy in GA right now that swears he forgot his kids and people already got him hanging. This is not justice, it only tells people
    do what you want and plead the 5th or insanity or for mercy. She will have it on her mind the rest of her life but she could have had it on her mind in prison. 72 DAYS…72 DAYS!!! Please I’ve known misdemeanors get more time than that. For Godsake people she went out one time to give a 3 month old milk and check on these kids, ONE time. Do y’all really think those 2 kids were not crying while they were out there….if they weren’t it was because she had drugged them with something. Disgusting!!

  • Rebe

    She is clearly not intelligent if she was dumb enough to leave her kids in a hot car. She needs to be banned from ever having kids again

  • paula

    Everybody is so self rightous. No I would not leave my kids in a car at no time but I have no right to judge this woman. That why jobs should start having day care for people that work for them.

    • That's Right

      Paula maybe should look at this girls Facebook. Something tells me she’s not pining away too much for the babies she’s killed. Taking sexy selfies, looks more like she’s looking for the next baby daddy! She was no angel to begin with having felony charges for obtaining money under false pretenses among other things! This girl doesn’t deserve to walk around free!

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