Mom makes liquor store run, leaves child in hot car overnight, deputies say

Casey Dyan Keller, 33, charged with child neglect with great bodily harm

By Dawn Jorgenson - Graham Media Group, Jerry Askin - Reporter

SANFORD, Fla. - A woman was arrested Sunday on charges of child neglect after leaving her 3-year-old child in a car overnight in Sanford, according to deputies.

The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded to the Vista Haven Apartments in the 200 block of Petunia Terrace in unincorporated Sanford just before noon Sunday after the 3-year-old was reported missing in a vehicle that was possibly stolen. 

"It upsets me very bad,” said neighbor Brenda Johnson. “I cried. Honestly, I cried. It shook me up pretty bad. She laid there lifelessly."

Deputies found the child inside the car in the parking lot of the apartment complex with the windows rolled up and the car not running. Deputies said she was overheated and going in and out of consciousness.

The girl was taken to an area hospital in critical but stable condition, officials said. She's expected to make a full recovery, deputies said on Monday.

"I just can’t see any mother that’s a responsible mother to not know your kid’s in the car, especially all night," Johnson said. 

An investigation revealed Casey Dyan Keller, 33, went to the liquor store with three children Saturday night, returned home around 11:15 p.m. and took the older two children inside but left her 3-year-old behind.

Neighbors are applauding law enforcement for responding to the call, noticing the child in the car and getting her to safety.

"The officer got the baby out of the car, then ran to his truck really quick, then bolted to the hospital," Johnson said.

Deputies said Keller called 911 to report the girl missing after realizing she wasn’t inside the apartment Sunday morning. They found no evidence that the car was tampered with or stolen and determined Keller left her inside the car overnight.

Neighbor Barbara Pitts said she knew something was wrong when the suspect came banging on her door early in the morning before she realized her child was missing.  

"Last night she came and she was banging on my door, and I had no idea what was going on, and she did it for 30 minutes, and I kept trying to tell her she had the wrong door," Pitts said.

Keller was arrested and charged with child neglect with great bodily harm. She was booked into the John E. Polk Correctional Facility on $15,000 bail. 

"I’m thinking more of help than jail, like maybe counseling or something," Pitts said of Keller.  

Keller has a hearing before a judge Monday morning.

The two older kids are now staying with family members.

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