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Heat blamed for toddler’s death

A preliminary autopsy found hyperthermia to be the cause of death of a 4-year old boy found in the back seat floorboard of his family’s vehicle parked in the driveway over the weekend, authorities said.

Franklin County Sheriff Larry Plott said the boy, William Dylen Mahaffey, was found around 3:30 p.m. Sunday after deputies responded to an initial missing person’s report at a residence on Marie Lane in the Waco community east of Russellville.

William Dylen Mahaffey

“Whenever someone calls in for a missing person, our search always begins near the residence,” Plott said. “So we began searching for him there and one of our deputies found the little boy in the floorboard about 10 minutes after arriving there.”

Plott said his department has ruled the 4-year old’s death to be accidental based on the preliminary autopsy showing the child died from the extreme heat that was built up inside the car.

Investigators said the boy’s mother reported that he went outside to play between 12:30-1 p.m. A short time later, she said she went to check on him and couldn’t find him.

Plott said it seemed like a normal thing for the boy to go outside and play by himself.

“It seems as though it was just another normal day, letting the boy go outside and play for a little while,” Plott said. “For some reason he got in the car. We have no idea why he made that decision.”

Franklin County Coroner Elzie Malone said this sort of thing doesn’t happen often, but people need to be extremely cautious when it is hot like this.

“The heat index around the time he was reported missing was between 103 and 106,” Malone said. “Temperatures inside a vehicle can reach anywhere from 120 to 130 degrees or greater.”

Malone pronounced the boy dead at the scene.

Plott said there were too many questions to say exactly what happened so the child’s body was taken to the Alabama Department of Forensic Science in Huntsville for an autopsy.

Plott said the family is having a tough time with the tragedy.

“I can’t even imagine the pain they are going through,” he said. “I plan on doing everything in my power to comfort them and help them through this unexpected loss.”

Plott said anyone who would like to give donations to the family to help with funeral cost should call 256-332-8811.