On Wednesday, Smith County Sheriff’s Office detectives and patrol deputies arrested Russell Lindstrom, 33, of Flint in connection to the two toddlers who were found in a pickup with the windows rolled up.
"Nobody blames Russel. It wasn't a thing he did. It just happened," says Marguerite Youngblood, Lindstrom's mother.
On the afternoon of June 11, Smith County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch received a 911 call from a person reporting two unresponsive toddlers inside a vehicle in the 18000 block of County Road 1100, near Flint. EMS arrived and found two girls, ages three and four. The four-year-old was transported to a local hospital, where she died. The three-year old was hospitalized overnight for observation and released.
Youngblood says what happened that day could have happened to any parent, "To crucify him over this is just not right. There isn't a parent in the world that can say they have watched their child 24/7 because if that was so there would be no hospital visits anywhere for any child."
Lindstrom is being charged with one count of manslaughter, with a $150,000 bond, and one count of injury to a child, with a $50,000 bond. He was arrested at a mobile home park in the 17000 block of Highway 155 South. His family was there when officers told Lindstrom he was under arrest."He was trying to stay calm. He was pretty upset because it's like they're saying he murdered his baby and he didn't murder his baby," says Youngblood.
Lindstrom said he was in charge of watching his two daughters. He put them down for a nap and started doing laundry. He says they were not in their room when he went back to check. He started looking for them and went outside. He found them locked in the family's truck, a 2003 Nissan Frontier.
Lindstrom said he was able to get into the truck with the keys. He said his fiance left the truck unlocked because they just cleaned it out and were about to trade it in that afternoon. He believed the girls went outside, got inside the truck, and accidentally locked it. He said they had locked themselves in a car before during the winter, so the couple is always careful to hide the keys from them.
"I got to the end of the trail on the other side of the house and I saw the truck and I had a bad feeling," says Lindstrom. Bella and Zoey were locked inside. He pulled them out and realized Bella was not breathing.
He laid Zoey, who was responsive, on the cool concrete and then went back to his oldest, who was still unresponsive. He immediately started doing CPR on the child.
"I knew that if she had a chance at survival, then I needed to keep breathing for her," he said.
According to Lindstrom, Bella-Rose was extremely hot to the touch when he pulled her out, claiming he knew she was dead. Lindstrom said he served in the Army for seven and a half years as a first responder.
"In my head, I knew she was dead. I held my little girl dead in my arms. I've seen death before," Lindstrom says, "She was definitely my beautiful rose. She was very brave, courageous and loved to explore. I loved her to death."
"I don't know if I just lost my daughter or my whole family," said Lindstrom. "I may never get to see them again."
He says police asked him to come to the police station for questioning. He says they interrogated him and would not confirm if his daughter was alive or dead.
"They kept me detained at the sheriff's department for two or three hours interrogating me, treating me like I was some sort of common criminal," said Lindstrom.
He told them he wanted to get a lawyer if they were going to continue the conversation. He said he saw the search warrant for his home and it said "manslaughter."
Lindstrom said he had to wait until after the interrogation to go to the hospital and learn the fate of his daughter.
"They couldn't have the common decency to tell me the truth at any point in this, even though I'm pretty sure they knew," said Lindstrom.
"It's bad enough losing a daughter, but it's even worse not knowing whether or not you have or not, and having to go all that time wondering were they able to revive her? Were they able to save my little girl? Is she dead?" he added.
As he told his story and rain began to pour down, he said he, "hopes this rain means it's the heavens crying over my daughter."
Lindstrom said authorities took all of his electronics and prescription medication. He says they also took a grinder, pipe and a small amount of marijuana. He is angry because he told them he had several guns and other weapons and they did not take any of those.
He told KLTV, "no wonder people in my position get suicidal".
The Smith County Sheriff's Office is continuing to work with CPS on the investigation regarding the surviving child. The CPS case is still open and the agency is working to provide ongoing services to the family to make sure proper supervision is provided at all times.
Youngblood and her family members are standing behind Lindstrom. She says Lindstrom is a veteran and a father who lives to protect others, "He's always been there for them. He would lay his life on the line for anybody in his family, but especially his children because they were life."
Lindstrom's family is setting up a fund to raise money to hire a lawyer for Lindstrom. Click here: http://www.gofundme.com/bajjlc.
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