Grandmother of toddler who died in hot car defends son - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Grandmother of toddler who died in hot car defends son

Russel Lindstrom Russel Lindstrom

FLINT (KYTX) - The grandmother of a toddler who died after getting stuck in a hot pickup truck last month is defending her son as new details emerge about the circumstances surrounding the little girl's death.

Russel Lindstrom, 33, of Flint, was arrested Wednesday and charged with manslaughter and injury to a child.

His daughters -- Bella, 4, and Zoey, 3 -- were found unresponsive in his truck after apparently climbing inside to play last month -- but one girl survived.

The arrest affidavit, which was released Thursday, alleges Lindstrom "recklessly neglected" his daughters -- "playing games on his cell phone" and "blaring music" while they locked themselves in his parked pickup truck in the scorching heat on June 11.

But Lindstrom's mother says he's a great father, and it was all just a terrible accident.

"They're just his light, they're his loves," Marguerite Youngblood said. "And for them to think that he could be capable of harming those children with any intent is just absurd to anybody that knows him."

Lindstrom told police the girls snuck out of their bedroom where they were supposed to be napping -- most likely while he was in the laundry room.

In an interview with CBS19 the day after Bella's death, Lindstrom said the girls couldn't have been in the truck for very long.

"It couldn't have been longer than 15 minutes," he said.

But according to the arrest affidavit, Lindstrom told police at the scene that "about an hour had passed" after he put the girls down for their nap before he realized they weren't in their bedroom. And that they had actually "locked themselves inside the vehicle once before."

Lindstrom's family is standing by him, calling his arrest unfair and inhumane.

"None of this was intentional," Youngblood said. "Yes, Bella is gone and we're all going to miss her and we can't bring her back, but there's no reason to tear this family apart and to crucify that boy."

The affidavit also says police seized drug paraphernalia from Lindstrom's bedroom, and that on the day of the incident the truck was unlocked because it had just been cleaned since the family was preparing to trade it in.

Neighbors also told authorities, according to the document, that they saw the girls playing outside unsupervised on several different occasions -- at times completely naked and even playing in the pool.

Lindstrom's mother refutes that, saying he always sat on the porch when his daughters played outside.

Lindstrom is being held at the Smith County Jail on $200,000 bond.

His family has created a GoFundMe page to try to raise money for an attorney.


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