Baby dies from 100 degree heat in car; Walker grandmother charged with murder

Barbara Michelle Pemberton
photo Barbara Michelle Pemberton

Authorities arrested a Walker County, Ga., grandmother Friday afternoon, three days after she found her grandson dead in her car.

Barbara Michelle Pemberton, 47, turned herself in around 1 p.m. after a magistrate judge issued warrants against her on charges of second-degree cruelty to children and second-degree murder. Sheriff Steve Wilson said Pemberton left her 13-month-old grandson in her Ford Focus with the heat on while she visited friends in Rossville.

Pemberton, of the Kensington community, stayed in the home for about five hours, Wilson said. Her friends told investigators that they suggested Pemberton check on the baby two or three times during the day. But by the time she returned to her car around 4:20 p.m., the infant, Shadoe Braxton Pate, was unresponsive.

Though Pemberton and her friends conducted CPR on Shadoe, and though paramedics rushed him to the hospital, the infant was pronounced dead at Hutcheson Medical Center.

On Thursday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conducted an autopsy and concluded that Shadoe died of hyperthermia. Wilson said investigators believe the temperature rose to around 100 degrees by the time Pemberton checked on Shadoe on Tuesday.

He said Pemberton told investigators she didn't realize how long she had been away from the infant.

"The time got away from her," Wilson said. "At the same time, the people she was visiting indicated that they prodded her two or three times to go check on the child There's not been a reasonable explanation [for ignoring that advice]."

Wilson said Pemberton often watched Shadoe because the infant's mother had to work. On Tuesday morning, Pemberton and her daughter met for breakfast before Pemberton took the child to the home in Rossville. Shadoe was asleep when they arrived, he said.

Wilson said there was no outward evidence that Pemberton or her friends had been drinking or were on drugs. Still, investigators drew blood and sent the sample to the crime lab. They expect to learn if any illegal drugs were in her system within six to eight weeks.

Investigators believe the temperature in the car reached about 100 degrees Tuesday because they ran a test the day after Shadoe's death. Wilson said detectives left the car running around the same time in the same temperatures with the heat at the same setting that Pemberton used.

The second-degree murder charge that Pemberton faces did not exist in Georgia until 2014. The charge occurs when a cruelty-to-children offense leads to death, regardless of whether the killer meant to cause harm. If convicted, Pemberton would face 10-30 years in prison.

She was being held in the Walker County Jail on Friday afternoon after Superior Court Judge Brian House set her bond at $100,000. Her attorney, Mary Jane Melton, did not return a call seeking comment Friday evening.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at or at 423-757-6476.