A Florida man with down syndrome has tragically died after being left in a sweltering minivan for several hours.
At around 1 p.m. on May 9, 35-year-old John LaPointe’s caretaker Joshua Russell, 26, drove him to a doctor’s appointment using the Crossroads of Pinellas group home vehicle, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office shared in a press release.
After leaving the doctor’s office, Russell made a stop at his house, located on Bermuda Drive in Seminole, according to police. He left LaPointe, who was nonverbal and had the cognitive ability of a 1-year-old, in the car.
While inside the home, Russell told police that he ingested two packages of Kratom — a substance made from a tree that is used as a recreational drug, according to the sheriff’s office.
Russell later returned to the van to drive LaPointe back to the group home when he began to feel “tired and nauseous.”
Once he arrived at the group home, Russell parked the van in the driveway and turned it off, according to police. He then fell asleep.
A few hours later, Russell awoke, covered in sweat. He turned around to find LaPointe slumped over and unresponsive, according to police.
He tried to perform CPR on LaPointe, but it was too late.
In a panic, Russell fled the vehicle, ran back inside his home and allegedly grabbed a gun with the intention to kill himself, the sheriff’s office revealed in the press release.
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He called his mother, who also worked at the group home, to tell her what happened and explained he wanted to kill himself, the sheriff’s office adds.
Moments later, Russell returned the vehicle and drove off with LaPointe still in the back seat.
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At some point, Russell’s mother convinced him to pull over and she dialed 911.
At around 5:35 p.m., police responded to the area of 82nd Avenue and Oakhurst Road. They pronounced LaPointe dead at the scene.
Following an investigation, Russell was arrested on Friday Sept. 20.
It was estimated that the temperature inside the van was 125 degrees. The Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’s Office determined LaPointe’s cause of death was hyperthermia.
Russell has been charged with one count of aggravated manslaughter of a disabled adult.
An attorney for Russell could not immediately be found.
The investigation remains ongoing.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.