District Attorney says marijuana a factor in hot car death

WICHITA, Kansas — A bond reduction hearing was held Friday for the man charged with first-degree murder in the death of his foster child.

Seth M. Jackson, 29, is a foster parent. Wichita Police say he left a 10-month-old girl in the backseat of a hot car last week for at least two hours.

The child died.

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett announced in court that Jackson consumed marijuana the morning of the hot car death. Bennett says the foster father ran out of pot and went to a drug dealer’s home. The DA said Jackson returned home and smoked pot, leaving the 10-month-old in the car.

“The individual who’s charged had been consuming marijuana during the course of the day and had run out,” said Marc Bennett. “He had taken the five-year-old to another appointment, picked up the victim, in this case, from the sitter and somewhere in that process, gone to the drug dealer’s house, picked up more drugs returned to the home and immediately began to use those drugs.”

The DA said that it is believed that is why the baby remained in the car last Thursday, dying.

Bennett says he believes Jackson was high that day, which supported the higher bond amount of $250,000.

During Friday’s bond hearing, the DA also said, “We don’t believe Mr. Jackson poses a threat to the community.”

Judge David Dahl announced that Jackson’s bond remains at $250,000; $200,000 of that is a signature bond, and $50,000 is a surety bond.

Jackson was not present at Friday’s hearing. However, both his mother and his 26-year-old partner were.

The conditions of bond remain the same. Jackson cannot contact anyone on the state’s witness list, including his mother and partner.

“Our mission today is to get this young man out and we’ll deal with the protective order at a later time. So therefore, if the court will show, it has been withdrawn,” said Leslie Hulnick, one of Jackson’s attorneys.

Jackson’s mother spoke to NBC News when the story first broke on Friday, July 25.

“He would be the first one to get on his soap box, as he calls it: ‘What in the world was somebody thinkin’?” said Dottie, Jackson’s mother.

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s website, in order to become a foster parent in Kansas, you have to meet several requirements, qualifications, under-go a background check, and even take training courses.

For more information about family foster homes for children in Kansas, click here.

However, KSN found nothing that indicates foster parents have to pass any sort of drug test or submit to any kind of random drug screening to be licensed.

The Department for Children and Families issued the following statement in regard to the allegation of drug use in the child death:

“Should the allegations prove to be true, I am appalled that a precious, helpless child suffered such an unthinkable death while her foster parent was allegedly using drugs. We expect parents to protect and care for their children. We expect even more of our foster parents. They have a duty to put the children in their care before themselves always and provide a loving, safe environment. This incident is a rare exception to the otherwise strong record of foster care safety in Kansas. Drug use is not tolerated among our foster parents.” – Phylis Gilmore, DCF Secretary.

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