Kids left in hot car start fire with cigarette lighter; father charged

Posted at 3:56 PM, Jun 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-16 18:31:03-04

Two young children left in a hot car set the vehicle on fire, and their father is now in legal trouble.

Jason DeCota, 42, is charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Police officers were dispatched Monday around 8:11 p.m. to the parking lot of Cornerstone Congregation Church to assist in a fire investigation, according to court documents by filed by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office.

In the probable cause statement, a witness told police she noticed DeCota park his Honda CRV. Ten minutes later, a man ran toward the car that was smoking. A child had stepped out of the car and the man pulled out the other boy before flames engulfed the car.

DeCota told an officer he went into the church to pick up his daughter from cheerleading practice and he left his 6-year-old and 3-year-old sons in the car. The officer saw the car’s windows had been rolled down two to three inches on the 92-degree evening.

41 Action News spoke with DeCota’s wife, Lisa DeCota.

“He was thinking he would be in, grab our daughter, and out and he left the lighter in the car with the boys,” she said.

Court records show the next day, Jason DeCota told detectives his sons had been in the car for only five minutes after his 6-year-old son asked him if he and his brother could stay in the car. Jason DeCota said he left his lighter and cigarettes in the car and the 6-year-old must have gotten the lighter and set the car on fire.

He said a man ran inside the church to alert him about the fire. Jason DeCota says he used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire.

The children were not transported to the hospital.

“They were just following their dad around and they were kind of quiet and he was concerned that they were safe,” Ted Keller, a member of the Cornerstone Congregation, said.

During an interview, Jason DeCota told detectives, “Ultimately it’s my fault.”

“You just think about the children, how small an amount of time it takes for tragedy to happen, there’s need to be that watching,” Keller said.

It's reinforcing the lesson of never leaving a child alone.

“Don’t do it,” Gene Flaharty, another member of the Cornerstone Congregation, said. “Anything can happen in a second.

Jason DeCota’s bond is set for $15,000.



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