Elderly man, locked in car, dies

July 8, 2008 6:50:17 PM PDT
Prosecutors brought criminal charges Tuesday against a man who left his elderly parents in a sweltering car for three hours while he drove his bus route, returning from his shift to find his frail father dead in the triple-digit heat.Theodore Pressman, 48, was charged with reckless endangerment for leaving his 85-year-old father and 75-year-old mother in his black Suzuki in a Peekskill parking lot Monday. The car was in full sun, its windows closed, police said.

At an appearance in Peekskill City Court, Pressman, looking frail himself, was held on $10,000 bail and was ordered to stay away from his mother. He argued with the judge over that condition, saying, "I know what she needs...I have to make sure she has food." No lawyer was present for Pressman and no plea was entered.

Police said the car was not locked and Pressman's mother, Joyce, was able to get out as the heat built up but was unable to help her husband, Joseph Pressman. The woman weighed about 80 pounds, said Detective Sgt. Eric Johansen of the Peekskill police.

"It appears they did not have the physical or mental capacity to deal with the situation," he said.

He would not provide details about the couple's infirmities that made it so hard for them to open the doors of the vehicle.

Peekskill police Chief Eugene Tumolo said that after an autopsy, Joseph Pressman's death was declared a homicide. More charges against Theodore Pressman could be added later, police said.

Johansen said there was no indication that Pressman intended to harm his parents.

He said a check of neighboring police departments, including the force in Beacon, where the three Pressmans lived together, showed that Theodore Pressman had often left his parents "at restaurants, delis, McDonald's" while he worked as a bus driver. "This was a frequent practice, but as far as we know he had not left them in a car before."

When Pressman returned to the car Monday, his mother was outside but disoriented and his father was unresponsive, police said.

Pressman called 911 but his father was pronounced dead. His mother was treated for heat exposure at a hospital and released.

Johansen said police often are alerted to cases of animals or even children left in hot cars, but the Pressman case was a first for him.

"Roles do reverse in family relationships," he said. "Parents take care of children and then at the end children are supposed to take care of parents."


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