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Trial Ordered in Heat Deaths

September 30, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Monday ordered an Antelope Valley woman to stand trial on two counts of child abuse in the deaths of two foster sons locked in a vehicle in the desert heat.

Leslie Sue Smoot, 48, faces up to 15 years in prison for the July 8 incident that resulted in the deaths of Nehemiah Prince, 3, and his brother, Dakota Prince, 5.

Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators said Smoot left the boys inside her Cadillac Escalade for five hours while it was parked outside a preschool she operates in Lancaster. Officials estimate that temperatures may have reached 120 degrees inside the vehicle.

Judge Steven D. Ogden found sufficient evidence for Smoot to stand trial after a preliminary hearing Monday in Lancaster, according to district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons.

Smoot had pleaded not guilty to the counts July 30. She is scheduled to be arraigned again on the charges Oct. 21, Gibbons said.

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