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Judge inconsolable in days after son's hot-car death, mother-in-law testifies

by Arkansas Online and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Staff Reports | August 18, 2016 at 10:29 a.m. | Updated August 18, 2016 at 5:14 p.m.
Wade Naramore is shown in this file photo.

5:10 P.M. UPDATE:

HOT SPRINGS — Judge Wade Naramore was inconsolable in the days after his 17-month-old son's death, his mother-in-law testified Thursday afternoon.

Jan Wright recalled how she learned of Thomas' hot-car death, telling jurors that as she baked a peach cobbler for friends around 3:05 p.m. July 24, 2015, she received a call from Naramore.

On the other end of the line, Wright said, she could only hear faint sounds before hearing screams get louder and eventually turn into wailing. The call, she presumed, related to Thomas' day at day care.

"Wade, I can't hear you," Wright said she kept repeating. As the call progressed, Thomas' grandmother said she could hear Naramore, unable to describe what had happened, screaming and asking her to call 911 before the conversation ended.

She then called her son, Spencer Wright, and her husband to seek guidance and help on how to respond to Naramore's plea.

Wright said her son later told her to come with her, not telling her what had specifically happened. The grandmother, suspecting the worst, repeatedly asked, "Thomas is dead, isn't he?" she testified.

Naramore remained shaken, unable to communicate the day of and in the days after, Wright said. At most times, his mother and wife, Ashley, were by his side, she said.

Wright said that the close-knit family stayed at her house for what she believed to be around two weeks. Naramore required medication after being unable to sleep at night — screaming and waking up on several occasions, she told the court.

Naramore's mother-in-law said she never felt resentment or placed blame on Naramore for her grandson's death.

"Not one second. Never, ever," Wright testified. "Those things can happen to anybody."

Naramore's brother-in-law, Spencer Wright, and Thomas' teacher also testified Thursday, each presenting their character accounts of the judge and interactions with Thomas.

Court proceedings ended around 4:40 p.m. after Spencer Wright's testimony.

The fifth and what is expected to be the final day of Naramore's negligent homicide trial is set to begin at 9 a.m. Friday.

Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

— Brandon Riddle

3:05 P.M. UPDATE:

HOT SPRINGS — The state on Thursday afternoon attempted to poke holes in defense expert Dr. David Diamond's testimony, calling into question statements made to him by Wade Naramore to help develop Diamond's "forgotten child syndrome" theory.

Prosecuting attorney Tom Young questioned Diamond on whether Naramore was in fact sleep deprived and enduring a chaotic morning the day of his toddler son's death last summer.

Diamond called Naramore's account subjective, with his potential stressors related to deviations from his typical schedule.

During cross-examination, Young also sought clarification on Naramore's daily routine, including the number of times the circuit judge took his son, Thomas, to day care.

Diamond said that while he had researched certain documents such as the day care sign-in log, he did not feel it necessary to cite specific figures in determining his findings as he saw them.

— Brandon Riddle

12:45 P.M. UPDATE:

HOT SPRINGS — Before a lunch break in the negligent homicide trial of Wade Naramore, defense expert Dr. David Diamond presented four common causes for leaving children unattended in vehicles.

Those causes, he said, were chaotic or atypical circumstances, sleep deprivation, stress or distraction and absence of a cue to indicate a child was in a vehicle.

Referencing the case of 17-month-old Thomas' death, Diamond said additional responsibilities Naramore was tasked with that day, meeting with a violent offender set to appear in court and lack of sleep because of the toddler's teething, made him more likely to follow his habits rather than noticing his child.

Those habits, he said — referencing Naramore's routine pattern of leaving home, taking Thomas to day care and going to work — made him unaware that he had not taken his child to day care after an out-of-the-ordinary stop at McDonald's on July 24, 2015.

Diamond said that Thomas' quiet nature during much of the car ride after a typical morning prayer also played a role in Naramore being unaware that his son stayed in his car as he went about his work duties and later ran errands for he and his wife's anniversary.

The defense expert also presented an example of a mother who had left her child, Bryce Balfour, in a vehicle — calling that hot-car death a "horror beyond belief" — and part of a phenomenon that affects even those who say it could never happen to them.

The mother, Lyn Balfour, similarly told police, "I killed my baby," Diamond said.

The fourth day of Naramore's trial was set to resume around 1:15 p.m. Thursday.

Check back with Arkansas Online for updates on this developing story and read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

— Brandon Riddle


HOT SPRINGS — The fourth day of the negligent homicide trial of Wade Naramore began with an expert who was paid about $10,000 to testify.

Dr. David Diamond, a scientist and professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, has studied "forgotten child syndrome" for over 12 years.

The idea of a parent forgetting a child in a car was initially foreign to him, Diamond said. It was when a reporter contacted him in 2004 about a dentist whose child died after being left in a hot car that Diamond began researching the biology of the phenomenon.

"It could happen to anyone," Diamond said, a belief that was reinforced in 2009 when Diamond forgot his 6-month-old grandchild in the car.

"I exited the car and had completely lost awareness of the baby in the back seat," Diamond said. Had his wife not been in the car with him, the situation could have turned tragic, he testified.

Diamond, the second defense witness in the case, remained on the stand later Thursday morning.

Naramore, a Garland County circuit judge, faces the misdemeanor charge in the death of his 17-month-old son, Thomas, who died after being left in a hot car in July 2015.

The trial began Monday with jury selection and continued with the start of testimony Tuesday. The prosecution rested its case Wednesday.

— Jeannie Roberts


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