NEWS- Fatal distraction: Charges certified in baby car death


Despite her cooperation and appearances of a fatal mistake, Raelyn Balfour faces two felony counts in the accidental death of her son.

The 911 tape was wrenching: "No, no, please. Oh, no, please. Oh, help me." As it played in Charlottesville Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Friday, June 1, the woman on the tape, Raelyn Balfour, began sobbing in the courtroom, as did her husband and family members.

While acknowledging the tragedy of the situation, Judge Edward DeJ. Berry certified two felony charges against Ms. Balfour to the grand jury for the March 30 death of her nine-month old son, Bryce, whom she left all day in a vehicle parked at the Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School where she works. Balfour, who told an investigator she "simply forgot" to drop the baby off at the sitter, is charged with second-degree murder and felony child neglect.

Her husband, Jarrett Balfour, a contractor at the National Ground Intelligence Center who is scheduled to deploy to Iraq later this month, detailed events leading up to the baby's death. His wife loved Bryce "very much and she always put him first," he said.

"Lyn doesn't sleep well," said Mr. Balfour. She did not get to sleep until 1am March 30, and was up again at 3:30am for at least 30 minutes when Bryce woke up and couldn't find his pacifier, Mr. Balfour said.

For most of Bryce's young life, his father drove him to the babysitter, who had lived north of their Greene County residence. The sitter recently had moved to Forest Lakes South, and the parents split "50-50" the task of delivering him in the morning, depending on their work schedules.

Because of an auto accident, the couple had carpooled that week. Raelyn Balfour dropped her husband off, and he didn't hear from her again until 4pm, when he received a distraught phone call. Asked to describe her crying, Mr. Balfour said, "Between one and 10, she was probably a 25."

He said his wife's stress level was not unusual. "I don't think Bryce created any additional stress on either of us," he said. "It was just tiring."

UVA police Detective David Roach interviewed Raelyn Balfour after the lifesaving efforts on the infant ended at UVA Medical Center. She waived her Miranda rights and said the day was "typical," Roach testified. "She had a very busy day with graduation coming up."

The mother had returned a phone call from the sitter around 3pm and left a message, said Roach. It wasn't until she spoke to the sitter around 4pm that she learned she had not dropped the child off.

Bryce died of hyperthermia, and his body temperature registered 110 degrees in the emergency room, a medical examiner testified. He compared being left in the car for seven hours to the ordinary experience of baking. The examiner said he found no evidence of abuse or drugs during the autopsy.

The high temperature that early spring day was 66 degrees, but even at 5pm, when UVA police evidence technician William Sowers measured the interior temperature of the Balfours' navy SUV, the temperature rose from 82.5 degrees to 98 degrees in 40 minutes.

Ms. Balfour's attorney, Northern Virginia-based John Zwerling, who represented UVA stabber Andrew Alston in 2004, argued that his client's forgetfulness was not a "willful act" and the accidental death "was not a gross or wanton disregard for human life."

"It was the manner of her care that is willful neglect," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Elizabeth Killeen. She pointed out that Raelyn Balfour had an uninterrupted 29-minute cell phone conversation that morning driving into work, and if she'd had a wreck because she was distracted, that would have constituted willful neglect. "This is criminal conduct- an accidental death in felony circumstances. She had a duty of care. It is gross and willful."

The distraught mother will remain free on $25,000 bond, and the judge lifted a restriction that she not be around children without supervision. She has a 14-year-old son, and with her husband leaving for Iraq, it would pose an undue burden to care for the son, said her other attorney, Dana Slater.

The judge also will allow Balfour to leave the state for a military drill and to take her 14-year-old son when she accompanies her husband when he leaves for Ft. Benning in Georgia June 16 before heading to Iraq.

The Father's Day weekend will be difficult for the family, Slater said, and June 18 would have been Bryce's first birthday. "It'll be good for the family to be together," she said. #


How does one 'forget' that their 9-month-old child is in the same vehicle? This woman's willful neglect is inexcusable - just as is her yammering on a cell phone for 29 min while driving (also with her child in the vehicle).

First, why the same story in two different locations, hook? Once wasn't enough? And for job1 if you look at the previous news articles even the prosecution stated it was an accident. If you actually take the example set forth, you will come to realize that many people are distracted while driving. We all see people eating, jamming to the radio, talking to others, yelling at their own children and accidents happen. I don't believe that the mother being on the phone is the issue. It sounds as though their were many other factors involved. I was at fault in an accident that killed my daughter that will forever haunt me. My daughter will never be replaced and no court has to tell me that I am accountable for that. I was not paying attention and my daughter paid the price. I was not charged with any crime.....the police/court stated it was an accident. My heart and understanding goes out to this family.

I actually knew the family. Well, technically, my dad knew them, and when he and my mother held a dinner party last fall they were in attendance. I held the baby and was actually going to babysit him if they ever needed the service. They arent terrible people, they are really nice and you could tell that they really loved their son. I honestly believe it was an accident and i really dont appreciate people like you, job1, who seem to think that anyone who makes a mistake is a terrible person who purposly made that mistake, JUST to kill someone. yes there are people like that out there, but these people werent them and you cant make assumptions. The mother is a great person who really feels regret for what happened. and as father up there said, the cell phone probably wasnt a big factor. i can pretty much guarentee to you that you have talked on the phone, or drank a cup of coffee, of listened to music while driving once in your life. The baby was sleeping and wasnt making noise and its an understandable mistake, despite the sad results.
My deepest sympathies go out to the Balfour family.

I agree with "Father who knows". I work with the child's father. From what I have seen and heard they are a good family. I have spoken with him several times prior to this about his son. I am a single Mother. I don't have friends and family that live close to me. I'm always tired, stressed and my mind is going a mile a minute. However, I have never left my son in the car. I have forgotten to buckle him up in my rush, I've talked on the cell phone for 30 min, and I have had dinner in my lap the whole time. If I had been in an accident and my son wasn't strapped in I would be in her situation. I'm not a bad Mom. I'm a Mom and I'm not perfect. My heart and prayers go out to this family. As the Father above said no court will punish this women worse than what she already has to live with. That alone would kill me. Putting me away for 30 years would just deprive my other children of a mother.

My family personally knows the Balfour's, I know for a fact that Lyn wouldnt intetionally hurt her child,Lyn may strech herself out to the limits and give her all to her friends and family.. but she would never have hurt little Bryce on purpose.. I know this becuase they are my daughter's godparents and if i had even thought they would be bad parents I would have never dreamed of asking them to be that to my daughter. i just wish everyone would leave the balfours alone and let them grieve and go on with thier lives.. they arent horrible people it was a horrible accient that will forever change thier lives. I will always rememeber getting that phone call from Jarret the day it happen, so with that my family constantly thinks about them.. and if you guys for some reason read this .. know we love you both!!

I dont know the family, but how do you forget a nine month old baby in the back seat? At that age most babys are giggling, trying to talk, moving around, etc. How do you not notice a baby in the back seat when you are getting out of the car? To me it is not possible. I am not saying these are not loving parents. Maybe it was a mistake, but it still was very careless on the parents part. I have two young boys and not one time have I ever put them in the car and forgot to take them out. Sometimes parents let ""OTHER"" things get in the way of their children. I say this not in disrespect to just the parents that this has happened to, but to ALL parents. Start paying more attention to these children. This was a careless act on the mothers part. Plain and simple.