WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - State agencies and state lawmakers are taking action in response to a WECT News exclusive report.
We fought in court for the release of body camera video that shows what happened when Wilmington police Lieutenant Matthew Malone’s daughter, who was left naked under a blanket and alone in a car in a bar’s parking lot, cried out for help.
Someone heard the 8-year-old and called 911. It happened outside Ogden Tap Room during the establishment’s Oktoberfest celebration.
Early this month, we learned Wilmington police suspended Lt. Malone after an internal investigation. As of earlier this week, he was back on the job, according to WPD.
In the video, Malone can be heard explaining to deputies his daughter got wet and wanted to take a nap; he took off her clothes, put her under a blanket and left her in the car.
The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office said its detective division, which has specially-trained detectives specifically assigned to child cases, was consulted and determined the actions of Malone and his wife did not meet the criteria of the general statutes for any crimes.
“As in most cases, the District Attorney’s Office was consulted and ultimately no charges were filed,” a statement from NHCSO notes. “DSS was also notified and they conducted a follow-up with the Malone family.”
Representative William Brisson (R-Bladen County) said the video “bothered him so bad” that he felt compelled to do something about it.
He asked the state Department of Health and Human Services to look into how this was handled.
Thursday, the DHHS secretary’s office called him and a representative told Brisson it is launching an investigation into how the case was handled.
Brisson said he felt an outside review of the case was necessary.
We aren’t sure what kinds of actions DHHS can take as a result of its investigation.
Senator Harper Peterson (D-New Hanover County) said his office is reviewing the laws on the books here and other states to try to determine if North Carolina law needs to be strengthened to better protect children who are left alone in cars.
According to KidsandCars.org, only 20 states have laws making it illegal to leave a child unattended in a car. North Carolina is not one of them.