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Marquel Clark,1, died after being left in a hot car July 31 in Cape Coral.
Marquel Clark,1, died after being left in a hot car July 31 in Cape Coral. / Special to news-press.com

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Relatives of the couple whose 1-year-old boy died last month after being left in a hot car said Tuesday the death of Marquel Clark was the result of a mix-up.

“It was a mistake where the mom thought the dad got the baby out of the car and the dad thought the mom got the baby out of the car,” said Roy Denson, the stepfather of Kathleen Jennings, 23, the boy’s mother.

“By the time they realized and went out, the baby (was) deceased,” Denson said.

Jennings and the father Michael Clark, 26, were arrested Tuesday on a charge of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle causing great bodily harm, a third-degree felony that carries a sentence of as many as five years.

They had their first appearance in court Wednesday, when bail was set at $75,000 for Clark and $65,000 for Jennings.

“Unfortunately, they’re being punished and they got a high bond,” Denson said.
“I don’t think they should’ve been charged because it was an honest mistake,” he said. “They’re excellent parents.”

According to police, the child was left in a car at the apartment complex on Vincennes Street on July 31. A neighbor reported around 1 p.m. that a baby was not breathing but when police arrived the couple had left for Cape Coral Hospital, where the boy was pronounced dead.

Denson said the couple began attending parenting classes and signed up for counseling with their three remaining children after the incident. He said they had gone to one of the parenting classes Tuesday before being taken into custody by Cape police in North Fort Myers.

Erin Gillespie, spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Families in Southwest Florida, said the couple’s other children have been removed from the home for their safety.

Marquel’s death is one of 13 child deaths tallied by the department in Southwest Florida so far this year, Gillespie said.

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