EXCLUSIVE: Family of Kendrick Engram, Jr. speaks on what happened the day leading to his passing

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 10:58 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The family of a three-year-old Columbus boy who died in a hot car speaks out and explains how the tragedy happened.

They sat down for a one-on-one interview with News Leader 9.

Cassandra Thomas couldn’t hold back the tears as she tried to revisit a busy Sunday afternoon that ended with the tragic loss of her three-year-old grandson, Kendrick Engram, Jr.

“When my daughter got off work, she called and said she was outside, and my grandbaby came and asked me where junior was, and I told her he was supposed to be in the house asleep,” said Thomas.

It was after 7:00 p.m. when Cassandra Thomas said she sent her grandbaby to check the house, looking for Junior.

“She came back and said he wasn’t in there, and that’s when I said call my son and told him to check the truck,” the grandmother continued.

Cassandra was on the phone with her son around 8:00 p.m. when he made the gruesome discovery while getting ice cream for the kids at Wendy’s on Wynnton Road.

He found the toddler’s body on the third-row seat of the Nissan Armada in the parking lot of the restaurant.

Junior’s mother, Yolanda Thomas, said she doesn’t blame anyone. “I feel that it was an accident. It was just God probably needed him more than I did.”

Yolanda saw her son for the last time around 3 p.m. She called her mother to come to Walmart on Victory Drive, where she worked to shop for the girls because the store was having a sale.

“He was in the buggy, and I said Junior get up, and he woke up and went back to sleep.”

Cassandra said she always babysits for her two daugthers, keeping Yolonda’s six children, including Junior, whose ages range between 15 and 4 years old. Yolanda said she is three months pregnant with another child.

Cassandra also recalled breaking from their normal routine of going to church and coming back home to eat on that Sunday.

After leaving Mind of Christ Church on Clover Lane, they then stopped at several restaurants, including Little Caesars and a wing place on Buena Vista Road, to pick up carryouts. The family went home back to the grandmother’s apartment on Cusseta Road to eat and stayed there for only a short time before Cassandra got a call from her daughter to come to Walmart to purchase clothes for the girls.

The toddler stayed in the vehicle for about 2 hours and 45 minutes before his uncle found him. Temperatures reached into the mid-90s that day, according to WTVM meteorologists.

Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan has ruled Junior’s death as a heat-related accident, stating asphyxiation as the cause of death.

Junior’s mother described him as a playful boy who liked to walk around the house with no clothes on. His aunt also said he loved watching CoComelon’s educational songs & nursery rhymes for kids.

Columbus police have not said if any charges will be filed. However, the department’s Youth and Adult Services Division is investigating the case.

Yolanda Thomas added that her focus is now on giving her baby a proper burial. Unfortunately, the family did not have life insurance, so they set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for the funeral. If you’d like to donate, click here.

EXCLUSIVE: Family of Kendrick Engram, Jr. speaks on what happened the day leading to his passing
EXCLUSIVE: Family of Kendrick Engram, Jr. speaks on what happened the day leading to his passing(Source: Kendrick Engram Jr.'s family)
EXCLUSIVE: Family of Kendrick Engram, Jr. speaks on what happened the day leading to his passing
EXCLUSIVE: Family of Kendrick Engram, Jr. speaks on what happened the day leading to his passing(Source: Kendrick Engram's Jr.'s family)
EXCLUSIVE: Family of Kendrick Engram, Jr. speaks on what happened the day leading to his passing
EXCLUSIVE: Family of Kendrick Engram, Jr. speaks on what happened the day leading to his passing(Source: Kendrick Engram Jr.'s family)
EXCLUSIVE: Family of Kendrick Engram, Jr. speaks on what happened the day leading to his passing
EXCLUSIVE: Family of Kendrick Engram, Jr. speaks on what happened the day leading to his passing(Source: Kendrick Engram, Jr.'s Family)
EXCLUSIVE: Family of Kendrick Engram, Jr. speaks on what happened the day leading to his passing
EXCLUSIVE: Family of Kendrick Engram, Jr. speaks on what happened the day leading to his passing(Source: Kendrick Engram Jr.'s family)

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