Jury begins deliberation in hypothermia death case

SHOSHONE, Idaho — A prosecutor said Friday that a father made a horrible, awful and ultimately deadly decision when he allowed his children to walk several miles in freezing conditions along an isolated rural highway last Christmas Day.

"I'm not saying he's a bad parent," Lincoln County Prosecutor E. Scott Paul told jurors during closing statements of Robert Aragon's trial. "I'm going to tell you what he did. I think the decision is wrong, criminal and deadly."

Aragon is accused of allowing his 11-year-old daughter, Sage, and his son, Bear, who was 12, to walk about 10 miles to their mother's house after his car got stuck in a snow drift. The 56-year-old farm laborer is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Sage.

He is also charged with felony injury to a child because Bear suffered hypothermia.

Jury deliberations began Friday morning after the prosecutor showed images, barred from the public under a judge's order, to the jury.

The children lived with Aragon in Jerome, a tiny community located in the heart of the Idaho dairy industry, and he was driving them to see their mother on Christmas Day morning when the car hit ice and slid into the snow bank, Bear testified.

The boy said he decided to set out on his own and walk because he wanted to find help for his father. Sage decided to go with him.

Sage died of hypothermia. Bear survived after taking shelter in a single-stall restroom.

The prosecutor repeated the children's ages throughout his argument and detailed how a cadaver dog found the dead girl curled up by a barbed wire fence, covered in snow.

"Sage froze to death, alone, in the horrible weather as a result of the defendants' decision," Paul said, adding that Aragon was "supposed to protect his children and he failed."

Public defender Patrick McMillen described how Aragon spent between two to three hours digging his car out of the snow after it got stuck, while the children sat in the back seat.

It was Bear who decided to start walking, McMillen said, and the father was likely suffering from hypothermia, which causes confusion and poor judgment.

McMillen also said the children were bounding with energy when they left the car and stopped to make snow angels along the road.

"There's a difference between a tragedy and a felony," McMillen told jurors.

"There is no one in this courtroom who feels worse about Sage's death than that man," he said pointing at Aragon, who kept his head down during the closing arguments.

Aragon faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty on either count by the jury, which included seven women and five men.

A female juror was excused and replaced by a male alternate.

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