Child’s death in car spurs conflicting images of grandmother

Dramatically differing images are emerging of a Lithonia grandmother charged with involuntary manslaughter after she allowed her 2-year-old grandson to die in her hot car. Not surprisingly, the more sympathetic view was voiced by her attorney in a press conference Tuesday.

“She will have to live with this for the rest of her natural born days,” says the lawyer, Mark Anthony Scott. “And there is no punishment that the criminal justice system could mete out that could punish her anymore than she is punishing herself.”

Deborah Welch, a Social Security employee in South DeKalb Mall, forgot to drop off Hezekiah Silvester Welch at his day care Aug. 14 because the child’s father, Welch’s son, normally would have done so on a Monday, Scott says. Welch worked in the office, only to find the child dead in her car at the end of the day.

“It was not part of her normal routine and this lady just had a lot on her mind,” says Scott, who noted that Welch has been a foster mother, and that she and her husband have been estranged, leaving Welch to raise two sons virtually alone. That morning, Scott adds, some acquaintances had made disturbing accusations against one child, which distracted her.

But DeKalb County District Attorney J. Tom Morgan says there’s even more to Welch’s story. Morgan says a witness told prosecutors she saw Welch come to the car that afternoon and look at the child without touching him, open the driver’s door and get in the car for a minute, then get out and walk back into the office. The witness thought she’d call the police if she saw later that the child still was in the car.

“But when this lady came out of the office, police and ambulances were already there and the child was dead. This witness was blaming herself for not having called sooner,” says Morgan. “And what had Ms. Welch done? Any other parent or grandparent would have torn the door off the hinges when they realized they’d left a child in a boiling car, but she went into the office and she didn’t call the police or an ambulance, she called her boyfriend.”

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