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'He was my heart'

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Grandfather calls toddler’s death in hot car ‘tragic’

By Chris Sardelli

Casting his gaze toward the small, white house where his three-year-old grandson Logan Cox lived, Jimmy Clevinger doesn’t know how he’ll ever go back inside again. 

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He’s still struggling to comprehend Logan’s death, who was found suffering from heat stroke inside a locked Mitsubishi Galant outside his home on July 2. 

Several days later, on Sunday, July 6, Logan succumbed to his injuries and died at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.

“It’s hard to walk through that door and not have him be there,” Clevinger said. “I don’t even want to see the car. I tell them to park it in the back. I can’t stand looking at it.

“I don’t even want to go back inside because I know he’s not there,” he said. 

Deputies responded to 2390 Walnut Road at 1:15 p.m. July 2, after receiving a report of a child found in a vehicle, the release said. Logan was found in the car by his mother, Amber Bender, who called 911.

Walnut Road is in the Buford community, located between Camp Creek and Thompson roads.

According to an initial sheriff’s office press release, Logan was treated by Lancaster County Emergency Medical Services and then taken to an area hospital.

“It appears that the child left the home without the knowledge of his mother and was playing in the car with his dog when he became trapped,” the release said.

The dog also died from exposure to the hot car.

Clevinger remembered going to work that morning and leaving Logan with his mother. 

“They went and watched SpongeBob and then his momma and him took a quick nap,” he said. “But he woke up and instead of grabbing his dump truck like he usually does, he went straight to the door and outside.”

He said Logan may have dragged a laundry basket over to the door, stood on it and unlocked the door. 

Holding back tears, Clevinger shook his head and said the whole situation was an accident.

“I’m just lost. He was my heart. My daughter, her boyfriend, my wife, they’re all struggling. I’m trying to stay strong for them and see them through this,” he said, as his voice trailed off.

He said there’s been a lot of backlash against his family over Logan’s death. 

“There’s enough pain, enough hurting. We don’t need to deal with all that with DSS (Department of Social Services) too,” he said. “All this stuff with DSS, I want it over. I know it was an accident. Nothing was done intentionally. He got the door unlocked and out he came.”

Clevinger hopes to get to word out to other families about protecting their own children. 

“I want to make sure people understand it was an accident and they need to make sure they keep their (car) keys away from kids,” he said. “It could’ve happened to anybody and I wouldn’t wish this on nobody. If you’re unsure of anything, go out and roll your windows down or open your sunroof. You don’t want them to get locked in.”

‘He’s an angel’

Logan’s family will visit with family and friends on Thursday afternoon before holding a memorial service for the three-year-old boy.

“Thursday is going to be the worst day of my life. It hasn’t hit me yet,” Clevinger said. 

Amidst the tragedy, Clevinger remembers happier times, including Logan’s love of cars. 

“As long as he had his McQueen and ’Mater trucks with him, that’s all he needed,” he said about the characters from the Pixar movie ‘Cars.’ “He loved cars. We’d be out in the yard playing and he’d want to sit in the car with me and turn the steering wheel. I’d let him play with the lights and blinkers. We even bought him a little electric car and he rode all over the place.”

He said the two of them had a special bond and Logan was always asking for his ‘Paw-Paw.’ “He was Paw-Paw’s baby. Every morning and every evening, it was ‘Paw-Paw, Paw-Paw.’ I’m still waiting for him to come through the door,” he said. “I still see him standing there with his toothy grin. He was my heart.” Pointing toward the front door, Clevinger still remembers seeing Logan there every night when he came home from work, with his arms outstretched.

“He’s an angel and he’s with God now,” he said. “I guess the good Lord decided he needed him.”

Ongoing investigation

Lancaster County Coroner Mike Morris said a cause of death has not been determined, though his office planned to conduct an autopsy this week.  

“An autopsy is required when it involves a child fatality,” Morris said. “From newborn up to 18 years old, the state law requires an autopsy in these situations.”

Morris expected to have autopsy results within a few days, possibly later this week. 

Sheriff’s Maj. Matt Shaw said Monday, July 7, that both the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office and DSS are investigating the incident. He also said the sheriff’s office is working with the 6th Circuit Solicitor’s office to determine if any criminal charges will be sought.

“I don’t think the facts are going to change as to what took place and it will be somewhat up to the Solicitor’s Office at a certain point to see if there are charges,” Shaw said. 

As for who those charges could be filed against, Shaw did not specify, but said authorities are investigating the actions of multiple people involved in the case.

“There was more than one person home at the time, so all of it and everybody is under investigation,” Shaw said. 

Doug Barfield, 6th circuit solicitor, confirmed that his office is working with authorities.

“I can’t comment on the facts of the case, but I have had discussions with investigators with the sheriff’s office. They said there is some more investigation to be done and when it is, then a file will be presented to me and we’ll go from there,” Barfield said. 

Shaw said the sheriff’s office regularly sends out safety tips to residents. One such tip, sent last week via the sheriff’s office’s Facebook page, involved protecting children from hot cars. 

“We tell people that if you’re out and about with your kids, don’t leave them in the car and if you’re home with little kids who are big enough to move around and could be near a car, keeping the car locked would prevent this,” Shaw said. 

 

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416