When children die in unexpected events, the public responds with frustration and demands accountability. Investigators gather evidence and build a case on what they find, but ultimately it is up to prosecutors to decide if there is enough reason for someone to be criminally charged.
Last June, a child was playing with a lighter when her parents weren't home. Last week, a little girl was left in a hot car while his dad was inside their home. Last night, a 3-year-old found a gun while his mom was sleeping at home. All three situations were completely different but ended with the death of a child.
FactFinder 12 wanted to know when parents should be held responsible. We asked Keith Schroeder, Reno County's District Attorney, for perspective from his experience.
"It's just human nature to start blaming and pointing fingers and trying to understand what's going on," Schroeder said. "Unless you have all the facts, you're really just speculating."
Schroeder said deciding when to file child endangerment charges is one of the most difficult decisions prosecutors make.
"They're very hard," he said. "Especially when you make a decision and you feel somewhat comfortable with it, and then you're second guessed by the public because they don't know all the facts."
In two of the mentioned cases, child endangerment charges were filed. But when a 3-year-old boy shot and killed himself after climbing on a chair to get a loaded gun out of the cabinet, so far, child endangerment charges have not been filed.
FactFinder 12 wanted to know the difference. Schroeder said the cases cannot be lumped together.
"There are little tiny details that investigators are aware of that go up to the prosecutor to review that distinguish those cases, and sometimes the public doesn't understand that," Schroeder said.
Schroeder said sometimes there is just not enough evidence to prove one way or the other.
"It's not just, well it's close but we think it went over the line and we think it's probably criminal," Schroeder said. "You have to be able to prove that to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt."
Schroeder said the public should trust that district attorneys have a lot of experience with these cases. He said a lot of times it just comes down to common sense.