Mother charged in ‘hot car death’ pleads guilty


After a long pause, flowing tears and holding tear-soaked tissues in her hand, Dijanelle Fowler, 25, said she was guilty of gross negligence for leaving her child in a hot car in DeKalb County while getting her hair braided for approximately six hours.

 Fowler appeared in DeKalb Superior Court Jan. 31 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years of probation with credit of jail time already served after she was charged with murder for leaving her 1-year-old daughter, Skylar, in her car in 2017.

 Fowler spoke at her sentencing, stating that she regrets leaving her child in the car, and that she loved her daughter.

 “It’s a decision that I can’t take back. If I could trade my life for hers, even if it’s just for a day, I would. I take full responsibility for that decision. [Her death] was not intentional,” Fowler said.

 Fowler, who received an athletic scholarship to play basketball at Bethune Cookman University, said basketball was her life until she broke her neck. According to Fowler, doctors said she would never walk or have children.

 “You can look around this courtroom and see that I don’t have support. Basketball was my life…when I broke my neck they told me I would never have children, but God blessed me with a beautiful child. She was my everything,” Fowler said, crying during her statement.

 State attorneys requested the maximum sentence of a total of 40 years to serve for Fowler. According to reports, Fowler left the child buckled in her car seat in the rear of her Hyundai Sonata while she visited a hair salon on LaVista Road in Tucker. The car was left running with the air conditioning turned on. When she returned approximately six hours later, the car’s battery had died. According to reports, the child was dead when police arrived on scene.

 Skylar’s father, Louis Williams, said in the aftermath of his daughter’s death, Fowler lied to him multiple times.

 “Until it was clear that this incident wasn’t an accident, I was going to stand by [Fowler]. I just wanted to be there for her. She told me she checked on our daughter every 15 minutes while she was getting her hair done,” Williams said. “I called the salon and spoke with the woman that did her hair and she told me [Fowler] never got out of the chair. Not once.”

 Williams said he believes his daughter’s death was an intentional act.

 “There’s not an inch of me that believes this was an accident,” Williams said.  

 Judge Linda Hunter said she disagreed with the state’s recommendation stating that Fowler had no prior incidents with the law and appeared to be a loving and caring mother who made a mistake.

 “Justice is not revenge. I’m sure there [are] plenty of parents that have left their children in a car and nothing I will do can make them a better parent,” Hunter said. “My job is not to send a message. I think the family, with all due respect, misunderstands the role of a judge. By all accounts [Fowler] and Mr. Williams are loving and committed parents.”


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