California mother pleads not guilty in death of toddler left in car for hours with heater on

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WEST CARSON, Calif. — A woman on Friday pleaded not guilty to charges related to the death of her 2-year-old daughter, who died after being left alone in a running car overnight while the mother allegedly drank with a friend in West Carson, prosecutors said.

Lacey Mazzarella, 34, of Rancho Palos Verdes, has been charged with one count of murder and one count of child neglect resulting in death, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Mazzarella entered the not guilty plea during an arraignment Friday afternoon. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23.

She faces 15 years to life in prison if convicted as charged.

Mazzarella was arrested Wednesday, nine days after her daughter’s death.

On the morning of Sept. 23, deputies responded to a report of a “baby not breathing” in the 22400 block of South Vermont Avenue, in an unincorporated part of the county, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

They found the child, identified as 2-year-old June Love Agosta, unresponsive. The little girl was taken by paramedics to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Mazzarella told investigators she put her daughter in a parked car about 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 22. She said she left the heater on and placed a blanket on the child’s lap so she wouldn’t get cold, according to a report from the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.

The defendant told officials she got into a nearby vehicle where she drank alcohol with a friend and eventually fell asleep, the report read.

When she awoke around 5 a.m., Mazzarella checked on Agosta and found the toddler unresponsive, with vomit on her shirt and car seat, according to the coroner’s report. She said her daughter’s body felt really hot “with skin coming off her back,” the report stated.

Mazzarella took the 2-year-old out of the car, placed her on grass and sprayed her with a water hose in an effort to cool her down, authorities said. A call to 911 was placed.

By the time arrived at the hospital, the toddler’s temperature reached 107.5 degrees, according to the report. She was also found to have apparent burns on her face, chest and arms, and her eyes were cloudy.

A cause of death has not yet been determined; the coroner’s office is awaiting the results of further forensics tests.

The defendant has a history of drug abuse, and six years ago she lost custody of another child — then 3 years old — due to neglect, according to the coroner’s report.

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