Audrionna Maria Rhoades, 21, faces a sentence of up to life in prison for the murder charge and up to 15 years in prison for child abuse in the Sept. 3 death of 2-year-old James Nelson. Rhoades had been arrested without incident at a home in Auburn Hills by Shelby Township and Auburn Hills Police at about 4 p.m. on Monday.
Macomb County Medical Examiners attributed the cause of Nelson's death to heat stroke. Shelby Township Police Chief Roland Woelkers said that the temperature inside the car that day climbed to well above 100 degrees.
Rhoades, who appeared upset throughout her video arraignment with Magistrate Michael R. Osaer, said that she had sought mental health treatment at the request of her mother following her son's death. She also said that she had taken a job at Hollywood Markets last week and had never been arrested.
A preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 8 and Rhoades is being appointed a state-funded attorney.
"This mother showed a reckless disregard for the safety of her child," County Prosecutor Eric Smith said in a statement. "Our office will use every resource to seek justice for James Nelson."
Following Tuesday’s arraignment, Rhoades' father, Johnny Rhoades, who lived in the same Dequindre Estates Mobile Home Park, near Hamlin and Dequindre roads as his grandson Nelson, spoke of his daughter's love for her son.
"I know she didn’t do it on purpose. … There’s no one that no one who has seen them together thinks that," he said.
Rhoades that his daughter told him she had left Nelson in the care of a roommate, with whom she had a childcare arrangement.
"She left him inside the trailer, sleeping on the futon with the young girl that was supposed to babysit him that day that had moved in a few weeks prior," Rhoades said.