An 11-month-old baby girl and a dog died inside a car in York County, Virginia on Tuesday after being left alone for about six hours, according to police.
Kristen D. Graham, 40, was arrested Tuesday and charged with felony child neglect and animal cruelty following the deaths, the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office told PEOPLE in a statement.
Sheriff Ron Montgomery spoke out about the incident in a news conference on Facebook Wednesday.
According to Montgomery, Graham served as caretaker to the animal and to the child — who’s name was Myrical Wicker — and that the girl’s 17-year-old mother, Arianna Wicker, was allowing Graham to watch her daughter.
Authorities say Graham and the baby girl lived with the dog and a man in his 80s at a residence in Seaford.
That man, who was not named by police, brought Myrical to the emergency room around 4 p.m. local time on Tuesday. Montgomery said he told staff “that he had a deceased child in the back of his vehicle — and that vehicle was parked right at the entrance to the emergency room doors.”
Medical staff “then went out to the car” and “observed a black plastic trash bag” in the hatch of the vehicle, discovering “a deceased 11-month-old child,” he recalled.
Police launched an investigation upon identifying the child.
Montgomery said that Graham left Myrical, who Graham had been watching for two days, inside the vehicle along with the dog. The heat index was at least 100 degrees.
Prior to that, Graham had brought the child and dog around 1 a.m. to a friend’s place to deliver “cigarettes and a bottle of apple juice” from a gas station, Montgomery said. They stayed for a few hours before driving back around 8 a.m. to York County.
After arriving at her home, Graham “rolled the windows up on the car,” shut off the ignition, and “left the dog and the child in the vehicle,” he said — adding that she went inside and fell asleep.
Graham “was awakened by a phone call” somewhere between 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Montgomery said. She “went outside to check on the child, who was, at that point, deceased.”
Soon after, Wicker was “brought into the house” and then taken to the emergency room by the older man.
Graham first claimed to the sheriff’s office that she remained in the vehicle with the child and dog, but Montgomery said their investigation shows that wasn’t the case. “It’s senseless that something like this happens,” he said.
It is unclear if Graham has obtained counsel yet.
The investigation is ongoing, the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office told PEOPLE, adding “we are awaiting results from the Medical Examiner’s Office as to the cause of death.”
Frances Spires, Wicker’s grandmother, posted a photo of her granddaughter on Facebook, writing “My beautiful grand baby Myrical,..sorry I didn’t get to be in your life more…still can not believe you’re gone…REST IN PARADISE GIRL!!!! 10/18/22-9/12/23.”
Spires wrote on a GoFundMe page that daughter Arianna was “a first time mom” whose daughter “has passed away unexpectedly,” adding that she’s “at a loss for words.