Carrollton police: Alcohol a factor in hot-car deaths of twins

» AJC Breakdown: Podcast on hot-car death case

Around 6:30 p.m. Thursday, neighbors heard sounds they’ll never forget, the plaintive wails of a father who had just discovered the bodies of his twin 15-month-old girls from inside his sweltering SUV.

Asa North’s neighbors rushed outside to help, placing the infants in a kiddie pool half-filled with water. One resident of the Tillman Drive duplexes in Carrollton placed ice packs around the bodies of Ariel Roxanne and Alaynah Maryanne North.

“It was awful,” said a neighbor who, from his porch across the street, watched North lift the little girls’ limp bodies from his Nissan Rogue. The 22-year-old neighbor, who did not wish to be identified, said he performed CPR on the infants but received no response.

North, 24, was heading to the store to buy some eggs when he found his girls in the back seat.

The length of time Ariel and Alaynah spent inside the car, parked in front of their parents’ duplex, is still unclear. With a temperature of 91 degrees outside, the temperature in the car likely exceeded 135 degrees after just one hour, said Jan Null, a lecturer in the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose State University who researches hot car cases.

“And objects or a person in direct sunlight in the vehicle would have been significantly hotter,” Null said.

Police believe North, charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct, had been drinking with a relative inside the duplex. And while investigators don’t believe he intended to kill his daughters, North could face up to 30 years in prison for their deaths.

Coweta Circuit District Attorney Pete Skandalakis said based on the current information he has about the incident, upgraded charges of second-degree murder — introduced in a law passed by the Georgia Legislature in 2014 — are appropriate. The second-degree murder statute was specifically created to address hot-car deaths.

‘She left the twins with the dad’

As the day’s events unfolded, Ariel and Alaynah’s mother, Breal Ellis, was at Grady Memorial Hospital visiting her sister, who was undergoing surgery for injuries in a automobile accident.

“She left the twins with the dad. And she got a phone call at Grady saying her babies were dead,” said Debra Caldwell Holland, Ellis’s great aunt.

Ellis said she had been calling North and checking on the twins throughout the day, Holland told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“She was devastated that the father left them in the car,” Holland said. “She was calling and checking on them. He was telling her they were fine. She just felt that something wasn’t right. Her spirit felt something was not right.”

Officer Jesse Shepard arrived on the scene at 6:39 p.m.

“I had several people yelling for me to do something,” Shepard wrote in his report. “I did a quick patient assessment of the two infants and could see that they were not breathing, were pale in the face, and had blood coming from their nose and mouths.”

The father told the officer that the girls “had not been in the car that long,” Shepard wrote.

‘No one thinks he did this intentionally’

Autopsies, performed Friday at GBI headquarters, will give law enforcement a better idea of how long the infants suffered. Results are expected by Monday, said Carrollton Police Capt. Chris Dobbs.

The twins were pronounced dead soon after their arrival at Tanner Medical Center. Police also took an uncle, Travis North, to the hospital due to “extreme intoxication.” North had to be handcuffed after trying to strike one of the officers, according to Shepard’s account.

“No one in the family, mothers, grandmothers, think (Asa North) did this intentionally,” said Dobbs, who said the father was “visibly shaken” but cooperative with police.

Breal Ellis is inconsolable, said her great aunt.

“She said, ‘I’m not a mother,’” Holland said. “I told her she was a mother. She loved those children.”

She said the twins were born prematurely and had some health issues. At 15 months they were still able only to crawl. Ellis did not like to have the children around a lot of people, Holland said, concerned that they might catch something.

Ellis is staying at her mother’s home.

“I’ve told them, ‘Don’t leave her alone,’” Holland said.

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