INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A mother faces charges after she was found lying across the center console of her freezing car with a bottle of rum when her dead baby was found, according to court documents, according to WXIN and WISH.
Rachel McAfee, 36, faces charges of neglect of a dependent resulting in death.
Rachel’s husband, John McAfee, reported his wife and daughter, Emma, missing Monday. Rachel was supposed to drop Emma off at her in-law’s house and then go to a meeting about alleged drinking problems. She did not do either.
A neighbor said they saw Rachel and Emma parked outside her house Tuesday morning, 24 hours after Rachel’s husband said she left with their daughter.
The neighbor told police she asked the woman in the car if she was OK, and Rachel, holding her daughter, said she was fine. But when the neighbor got home from work, the vehicle was no longer running, the woman was slumped across the center console, and she was no longer wearing a coat
When first responders arrived, they said the baby was cold to the touch, and Rachel was taken to a hospital and treated for frostbite.
It was nine degrees outside.
Responding officers said they tried to find Rachel’s shoes in the car and found a bottle of rum. The vehicle was out of gas, and its battery was dead.
“It is a horribly horribly tragic situation for everyone involved,” Marion County prosecutor Terry Curry told WXIN.
WXIN talked to John McAfee after his wife and daughter disappeared but before they were found. He admitted early on his wife struggled with alcoholism and depression.
“She’s drank since I’ve known her, but it’s gotten out of control the last couple of years. That’s kind of when all this started spiraling,” said John McAfee.
In fact, police reports show just last week officers were called to check on Rachel’s emotional welfare and John told police, “Rachel is known to drink alcohol until she passes out.”
Her husband also said Emma didn’t make it to her last scheduled doctor’s appointing on Feb. 22 because his wife had consumed too much alcohol and passed out.
The probable cause affidavit continues that Rachel, “ Had short-term memory loss about the death of her child and no concept of time.”
One local attorney says that may complicate the case.
“Did she know for instance if the car was going to run out of gas instead of keeping the child warm? What did she know and when did she know it,” said attorney John Tompkins.
Attorney Tompkins isn’t connected to the case but says because alcoholism and depression are mental health disorders, McAfee may not have legally understood what she was doing.
“What they’ll have to show again is McAfee knew that she was endangering the child. So again the question becomes what was the last thing she knew and when did she know it,” said Tompkins.
Still, prosecutors say the death of baby Emma comes with a simple message.
“You are responsible for the welfare of your child. There are mitigating circumstances here, but ultimately as a parent you are responsible for your child,” said Curry.
A doctor who examined Emma found “signs that are consistent with cold-related deaths,” according to court documents. The Marion County Coroner’s Office said autopsy results are pending.