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Dad arrested after leaving his baby in hot car, Visalia police say

Police arrested a South Valley man after finding his infant in a hot car that was getting hotter.

"Had the child been in there longer, I don't know what the outcome would've been, but I don't think it would've been very good," said Sgt. Jim Carr of the Visalia Police Department.

Police say the father left his little boy in the car while he went into the grocery store on Saturday. The temperature outside was 90. About 15 minutes later, a husband and wife heard crying and started a chain of events that may have saved the infant.

The car looked like any other in the Save Mart parking lot near Walnut Avenue and Akers Road. But the sound coming from it was distinct -- a child's crying. The wailing led a couple to a disturbing discovery.

"They had located the child that was in a vehicle that had all the windows rolled up, the doors were locked and the baby appeared to be in distress, drenched with sweat," said Sgt. Carr.

The couple made the first of several calls to 911. As they waited for police, the heat of the sun created a greenhouse effect inside the car.

"At 90 degrees outside, the interior temperature of the vehicle was about 130 degrees," Sgt. Carr said.

Police broke two windows when they arrived and handed the child over to emergency medical staff. After receiving some electrolytes, he was OK.

His 32-year-old father, David Ruiz, eventually came out of the store with his groceries and got questioned by police. When the mother came to pick up her son, he told her he'd left the boy by accident. The explanation wasn't enough for police. They arrested him for child endangerment.

"You're taking a risk of that child dying from heat stroke," Sgt. Carr said. "Babies are very susceptible to temperature changes."

Ruiz was still in the Tulare County Jail Sunday night. If he's convicted of the child endangerment charge, he could face anywhere from one to six years in prison.

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