Macclenny, Fla. – For the first time, News4Jax is hearing from the parents of a baby girl who died after being left in a hot car last month in Baker County.
“Every time you do get into a hot car, just remember that that was my daughter in that car for five hours,” said Brooke Paige, who is Ariya’s mother. “From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.”
10-month-old Ariya Paige died in July after investigators say her babysitter left her in a hot SUV in Macclenny.
Now, Rhonda Jewell is being charged with negligent manslaughter and is expected to be arraigned Tuesday.
Saturday morning, Ariya’s family and dozens of friends held a rally for her at the intersection of Macclenny Avenue and Sixth Street as they said they were seeking justice for the baby’s death.
Brooke says the last video she has on her cellphone of Ariya shows her pulling herself up as she is learning how to walk.
“She pulled up on my shirt, grabbed my shirt, and pulled up on me,” Brooke said. “I said, ‘Oh my gosh, Ariya. I think we are almost to your first steps.’”
Ariya was the only child and a “daddy’s girl.”
“She would pull on my chin with the little hair that I have,” said Justis Paige, who is Ariya’s father. “She would pull on it. She would always come up to me. If I was asleep, she would slap me and wake me up. She was a dad’s girl.”
At just 10 months old, Ariya died after being left inside this hot SUV for hours last month.
According to an arrest report, investigators say her babysitter, Rhonda Jewell, left her strapped in her car seat and went inside a house where she was also set to watch other kids. The report says Jewell forgot about Ariya being inside the car. She is now being charged with negligent manslaughter.
“I just don’t want any other babies or any other children to ever experience what Ariya did,” Brooke said. “It hurts. I hate that Ariya had to go through it, and there was nothing I could do.”
During Saturday’s rally, the Paiges, other family members, and friends held big posters with Ariya’s pictures on them and had phrases written on them, including: “Justice for Ariya” and “Ariya was Innocent.”
“I will do everything that I can to get justice for her,” Justis said.
“What keeps me going is I wake up every day and tell myself I have to do this for Ariya,” Brooke said. I love that we have an army behind us that is making us move every day. It keeps going every day. If it wasn’t for this army behind us, I do not know where Justis and I would be today,” said Paige.
Ariya’s parents say they plan to hold a similar rally on Tuesday at 8 a.m. outside the Baker County courthouse. That is one hour before Jewell’s arraignment.
News4Jax learned a judge granted Jewell an appearance waiver.
She will not physically be at the Baker County courthouse for the arraignment. Her attorney will appear on her behalf.
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https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/2023/08/26/parents-of-a-child-who-died-in-a-hot-car-speak-with-news4jax/ Parents of a child who died in a hot car speak with News4Jax