A town of Medina woman was charged Thursday with felony child neglect resulting in the May death of her 2-year-old daughter from inhaling gasoline fumes in a closed car.
Connie M. Hartmann, 35, also is charged with felony child neglect resulting in great bodily harm of her 4-year-old son, who was "slipping in and out of consciousness" after being found in the car with his unconscious sister on May 6, according to a criminal complaint.
Though a May search warrant filing stated the boy told a doctor that he and his sister locked themselves in the car and drank gasoline, neither child had actually done so, said Dane County Sheriff's spokeswoman Elise Schaffer.
Dane County Medical Examiner Vincent Tranchida concluded the girl's death was accidental and resulted from playing in a closed car without ventilation, the complaint states.
According to the complaint, the owner of the car had put a can of gasoline in the back seat because the car's gas tank leaked. He also found a bowl containing gasoline on the center console before finding the children in the back seat after driving around searching for them.
The car's owner, who was living in the same apartment as Hartmann and her children, told a detective that a week earlier, the boy had been scolded for drinking gasoline, the complaint states. He said the boy laughed and said he had consumed gasoline and had a smell of gasoline on his breath.
Hartmann was taken to the Dane County Jail at about 3:30 a.m. Thursday after she was arrested on tentative charges of battery and disorderly conduct for a domestic incident involving a man who lives at her residence, Schaffer said.
According to the complaint:
Hartmann told a deputy that she had put a movie on for the children and gone to sleep for about two hours. She said she had locked the doors in her apartment and had extra locks because her son liked to open doors and leave without her knowing.
When she woke up, Hartmann said, the children were not inside and she went to look for them.
Doctors at American Family Children's Hospital found the boy had burn injuries consistent with lesions caused by gasoline-soaked clothing and concluded he was a victim of neglect, based in part on Hartmann's statements indicating a lack of adult supervision of him and his sister.
A chemical indicating exposure to cocaine was found in the boy's urine. According to the May search warrant filing, Hartmann's sister told investigators she, Hartmann and others smoked crack cocaine in front of the two children in the past.
The boy spent several days at UW Hospital before being placed in foster care, according to the Sheriff's Office.