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Toddler Shifts Running Car Into Drive, Strikes And Kills 2-Year-Old

August 7, 1988

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (AP) _ An 18-month-old boy briefly left alone in a car with the motor running shifted the car into drive, sending it into a group of campers and decapitating a 2-year-old boy, police said.

The dead boy’s mother became hysterical after being injured in the accident Friday at San Clemente State Park.

″The mother of the child, she pointed at Hollee (Groff, mother of the boy in the car) and she said, ’She murdered him, she killed him 3/8‴ said Melvin Oatis of San Clemente, the surviving child’s uncle.

″Hollee grabbed her son and made sure he was all right. Then she fell to the ground in shock,″ he said.

Dylan Clark Bloodworth died instantly after the station wagon pinned his head ahead against a post. The vehicle also struck Dylan’s mother, Sheri Marie Bloodworth, 27, of Arlington, Texas, who suffered head injuries, and his grandmother, Joanne Marie Ferguson, 44, of Mission Viejo, who suffered four broken ribs.

″I just managed to get out of the way,″ said Stevie Ferguson, Mrs. Bloodworth’s aunt. ″They didn’t even see the car until it was on top of them. At first, we all thought it was a drunk driver.″

Both families were camping at the park, according to California Highway Patrol officer Jim Feick and park chief ranger Rich Gililland.

Ms. Groff, 31, of Temecula, was preparing to leave and stopped her station wagon to retrieve some belongings, they said.

She put the automatic transmission in park but left the engine running because she had been having trouble starting it. She told officers she was gone less than one minute, Feick and Gililland said. The emergency brake apparently was not set.

Her son, Caleb Jordan Groff, who was in the back seat, squeezed out of his car seat and shifted the car into drive, sending it down a 100-foot incline where it struck the three victims outside their tent.

Ms. Ferguson said that despite her niece’s initial outburst, she did not think Ms. Groff should be charged.

″She feels like I do,″ the aunt said. ″She knows that poor girl didn’t do it on purpose.″

No charges have been filed and an investigation was under way, the CHP said.

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