ONLY ON 13: Two people sentenced after death of woman with autism in hot van

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Two people sentenced after death of autistic woman in hot van, Miya Shay reports. (KTRK)

They could feel Rebekah Harkins' spirit in the courtroom Friday morning.

Syleta Harkins and her daughter, Angel Harkins-Taylor, watched as two people pled guilty to charges related to the death of their beloved Rebekah. She was a sister, an aunt, and a beloved member of the Harkins family. Rebekah, autistic and non-verbal, was left in a hot van for hours in 2013. She died weeks later.

"There's so much guilt involved when you're a family member," said Syleta Harkins, the sister. "Could we have saved her somehow from this fate? And I don't think I'll ever get over that."

Harkins remembers that searing July day, when her sister was left in a transport van outside the Sean Ashley House -- a day facility for adults like Rebekah. After being left in the van for more than five hours, Rebekah clung to life for weeks before passing. Last year, the two bus drivers and a supervisor were indicted relating to her death.

Friday morning, former bus driver Rodney Jackson and supervisor Tamika Lee pled guilty. Both were sentenced to five years of probation. Jackson's attorney says his client admits he should have checked the bus that hot July day.

"He feels real remorseful about what happened," said Jackson's attorney John LaGrappe. "He knows he should have checked for her, and he didn't and he feels real remorseful."

Another bus driver, Brian Campbell, has pled not guilty and is scheduled for trial in December. Harkins' relatives say they'll be in court when he goes to trial. They want to fight for Rebekah, and all other adults like her.

"Not just those with developmental disabilities," said niece Angel Harkins-Taylor. "But everyone in this community needs to stand up for people who can't do it for themselves."

Related Topics:
autismhot carHouston
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