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Man With Down Syndrome Dies In Hot Car After Care Giver Takes Drugs And Falls Asleep

Sorenson Funeral Home / Pinellas County Sheriff's Office


Man With Down Syndrome Dies In Hot Car After Care Giver Takes Drugs And Falls Asleep

Police say a Florida man with Down syndrome is now dead after his caregiver left him in a hot car.

Joshua D. Russell has been arrested in connection with the death of a 35-year-old man with Down syndrome. 

Police say that Russell who was the caregiver for John LaPointe sat in the front seat of his van to do drugs and fell asleep. LaPointe had been in the backseat for several hours with no airflow causing him to die back in May. The temperature in the car was reportedly 125 degree. 

“Let’s just call it what it is, this poor guy baked in that car,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a news conference Friday. “I’m sure he had to suffer. … It had to be absolutely horrific in that car for that man.”

LaPointe who was a resident of Crossroads of Pinellas group home was nonverbal and had the cognitive ability of a 1-year-old.

Related: Prosecutors Won’t Press Charges Against Father Who Left Twins In Hot Car

When authorities caught up with Russell who had fled the scene, they say that he had a gun and was threatening to kill himself. Officers were eventually able to catch up to him and arrest him.

In an interview with Russell after being taken into custody, he shared that after taking LaPointe to a doctors appointment, he stopped at his personal home to take a substance called kratom. That substance is said used as a recreational drug.

Russell continued to share that when he was trying to drive back to the group home but became ill causing him to sleep for two or three hours with the van parked in his driveway. In custody, he shared that he was awakened because he was “extremely hot and covered in sweat.” As for his knowledge of LaPointe being in the back seat, Russell said he noticed LaPointe was slumped over and not breathing.

That’s when the gun came into play as Russell told authorities that he tried to do CPR before running into his home grabbing the gun with intentions of killing himself.

Related: Infant Twins Found Dead In Car After Father Left Them Inside To Go To Work

An autopsy was conducted on LaPointe and a medical examiner determined that his cause of death was due to overheating. Russell was booked into the Pinellas County jail on a $50,000 bond.

In an online obituary, LaPointe’s family called his death a tragedy.

“John has an infectious smile, angelic sweet gentle spirit and so enjoyed watching Barney cartoons on his tablet,” it read. “John was a beautiful human being loved by all and will forever be in our hearts.”


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