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VIDEO: Smith County father recounts death of young daughter locked in truck


POSTED: Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 5:35pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 7:18pm

The father of a Smith County child is speaking out about his daughter's death just a day after the tragic incident.

"At this point I don't know if I lost a daughter or lost my whole life," said the girls' father, 33-year-old Russel Lindstrom. 

Lindstrom told KETK his two young girls, ages 3 and 4, were sleeping when he began to do some chores inside the home. The father said he thought he would have two to three hours of spare time while doing the family's laundry. Between loads he was playing video games and said the girls were right in the next room.

About an hour later, a friend, his fiancee's brother, asked Lindstrom when he had last seen his kids. The dad said he went to check on the children and could not locate them. Lindstrom then began searching for the girls and began shouting for their response.

"I saw the truck and immediately thought the worse. And saw my kids in the back seat of the truck," said Lindstrom.

During the search, Lindstrom came across his truck, a 2003 Nissan Frontier, which was unlocked after it was cleaned for a trade-in, and found his kids, 3-year-old Zoey Lindstrom and 4-year-old Bella Lindstrom, unconscious in the vehicle with the doors locked.

Lindstrom told KETK after unlocking the truck and pulling Bella from the back seat. She had vomited next to where she was. He tried to cool her off in their pool. He then returned to the vehicle and picked up Zoey from the floor and laid her on the cool concrete on their porch. The father returned to Bella and discovered she had no pupil response or pulse. He immediately performed CPR and attempted to call 911, but his phone failed from water damage.

Lindstrom said he told his friend to call 911 and waited for help to arrive at their home near Flint on County Road 1100. He said waiting to find out his daughter's condition was the worst experience a person can imagine. He said it took 10 minutes for the EMS to arrive and 30 minutes for the police.

"I held my dead daughter in my arms. A big part of me knew she was gone, but my heart and soul hoped she would pull through," said Lindstrom. "Worse than losing a child is wondering if you have. Just waiting for that confirmation."  

The father said he was interviewed at the police station and his blood was drawn for toxins, however, the Smith County Sheriff's Office is handling the case.

"It's to early in the investigation to tell what will happen to the father or anyone else that potential could have been involved in this, whether it be from direct act or negligence or whatever, it's still under investigation and it will take awhile to determine if any charges need to be pursued," said Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith.  

"I could be going to jail on top of losing one daughter and never seeing the other one again."

He believes he will be charged with involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide, although no formal charges have been filed as of 3:45 p.m., Thursday.

"I was responsible for them that day. My eldest died and my youngest almost died," said Lindstrom.  

Zoey was treated and released at the scene by EMS, but later was taken to a local hospital for additional evaluation. Bella was pronounced dead on Wednesday by Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Judge Gary Alfred .

Zoey is currently with Lindstrom's fiancee.

"My fiancee doesn't know how to tell her that her sister is dead. I told her not to, I told her I would do it the next time I see her, but depending on how all of this works out, I may never get to see her again," said Lindstrom.  

According to Shari Pulliam with Child Protective Services, preliminary information suggests the 4-year-old died of heat-related complications after being in a locked vehicle for an undetermined amount of time. Pulliam urges citizens to keep vehicles locked when children are around. She also stated CPS has not taken custody of the child alive, and there is no CPS history with the family. The Smith County Sheriff's Office is working with CPS on an investigation regarding the surviving child.

The Smith County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division is investigating this incident. According to Lindstrom, who claims to be a veteran, authorities seized his prescription medication and electronics, but not guns inside the home. The truck involved in the incident has been taken to the Smith County Sheriff's Office Crime Lab for processing.

KETK will update information as it becomes available.

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