Mom charged with murder after baby dies in hot car in DeKalb

On the June day 1-year-old Skylar Fowler died, temperatures hovered around 90 degrees in metro Atlanta. To combat the heat, DeKalb County police say, the child’s mother left the air conditioning running in her Hyundai Sonata as she went to get her hair done at a Lavista Road salon.

But when Dijanelle Fowler, 25, emerged, the car had shut off and the harm to the child had been done. It had been six hours since Fowler went inside, according to warrants obtained Tuesday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Fowler, a former college basketball player who flooded Facebook with pictures of her new girl, was booked in jail late Monday on charges of second degree murder and child cruelty by neglect.  

Skylar was the first child to die from heat in a vehicle this year in Georgia, and the 23rd in the U.S., according to the Kids and Cars organization, which works on preventing such tragedies.

In Atlanta, the child’s story is sure to conjure up memories of Justin Ross Harris, the Cobb County father whose 22-month-old son died in 2014, nearly three years to the day from Skylar’s death. Harris was convicted of murder last year in a sensational trial detailing what prosecutors called his desire for a child-free life.

But Cooper Harris’ death and Skylar’s have a key difference: Police don’t believe Fowler meant to hurt her baby.

Instead, authorities on Tuesday detailed a case of alleged neglect and a bizarre aftermath that raised investigators’ suspicions.

Fowler had a hair appointment in the Northlake Tower Festival Shopping Center in the Tucker area at 10 a.m., the warrants say. Security camera footage shows her enter at 10:06 a.m.

Witnesses and the tape confirm she didn’t walk out of Mahogany’s Salon, whose employees declined to comment to the AJC, until 4 p.m.

It isn’t clear what time the car died.

When Fowler couldn’t get it to start back up, she got a man at the salon to assist.

The good Samaritan didn’t see the baby because, police believe, Fowler hid her, perhaps with clothes that were in the Hyundai. 

With the car running, the mother left, but she didn’t call 911 yet.

“Between 4 and 4:54 (p.m.) she texted the child’s godfather that she was going to go to an urgent care (clinic) for headaches,” a detective wrote. “(Fowler) also Googled about signs of seizures.”

She arrived at Emory at 4:54 p.m. and dialed 911 from the physicians’ parking deck.

In the call, Fowler didn’t mention the baby and instead said that she herself was “having a seizure of some kind,” the warrants allege.

When officers arrived, Skylar was unresponsive in her car seat in the back seat.

The medical examiner’s office believes she had been dead for “some period of time,” the detective wrote. 

Mark Anglin, chief investigator at the medical examiner’s office, said the investigation into Skylar’s death isn’t complete. A case review is scheduled Wednesday.

DeKalb police said Fowler offered a timeline that seemed odd to detectives. She mentioned the hair salon, but allegedly gave times that didn’t match with what investigators found.

Fowler, who was treated and released from the hospital within hours after her daughter’s death, remained in the DeKalb jail Tuesday without bond. The most serious charge she faces — second degree murder, a crime created in 2014 to address child neglect deaths — is punishable by 10 to 30 years.

A New Jersey native, she stayed in South Carolina after studying biology and playing basketball at Charleston Southern University. According to Channel 2 Action News, she had been staying recently in the Lithonia area.

Skylar’s obituary recalled the “precious memories” left to her parents, Louis R. Williams, II, and Fowler. The father couldn’t be reached Tuesday.

The image portrayed of Fowler in the warrants is a sharp contrast to the mother she presented herself as on social media. For 13 months, she posted photo after photo of Skylar.

Last May 25, the day-old child lay in a hospital nursery with a pink bow covering her dark hair.

Friends and family showered the mother with congratulations.

“Love this gorgeous little girl!!!!” Fowler wrote a few weeks later, sharing a shot of her with the newborn.

The mother and child played and laughed in the photos.

The last picture was posted after Skylar’s death.

It showed the baby’s face superimposed over angel’s wings in the blue sky.

“May 24, 2016-June 15, 2017,” the caption said.

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