A Pennsylvania woman was found not guilty on most charges on Friday, involving the death of a 4-year-old girl, left inside a hot car for more than six hours in 2016. The community is speaking out, demanding transparency and exposure, but her family insists that the entire story is not being told on social media, which has reportedly created an avalanche of attacks.
The Sun Gazette reports that after a jury deliberated for around three hours, they returned the not guilty verdict on most charges for 30-year-old Brittany Renee Borgess, who stood accused of reckless endangering, involuntary manslaughter, and endangering the welfare of children.
While Borgess escaped charges on the more serious charges, the jury found her guilty of endangerment. The presiding judge, in turn, fined her $25.
“When a child dies under these conditions, we felt that charges are appropriate because we believed then and we believe now that this type of behavior is reckless and criminal,” Lycoming County’s First District Attorney Martin Wade said in response to the verdict.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Borgess left Samaria Motyka, 4, inside a car for more than six hours, at a Williamsport parking lot off of the 500 block of West Fourth Street, on July 22, 2016. As the sweltering summer heat reached temperatures of 97 degrees in Williamsport on the day in question, the little girl suffered for hours until she lost consiousness.
When first responders arrived, they found Samaria slumped in the passenger side floorboard with her head resting on the seat. She had unbuckled herself from a booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle and tried in vain to escape the heat. Once at Williamsport Regional Medical Center, her temperature registered at 110 degrees. Temperatures inside the vehicle had reached over 120 degrees.
“I went to work and she’s still in my car,” Borgess, barely audible, told a 911 operator after finding Samaria in the vehicle.
Borgess later told authorities that she didn’t purposely leave Samaria in the car. She indicated she dropped her 2-year-old toddler son off at daycare, then forgot to bring Samaria to a different daycare at another location.
Borgess was cooperative throughout the investigation, according to authorities. Yet, many members of the community are rallying around Samaria’s mother, Sara Fox, who maintained that Borgess should have gotten more severe punishment for leaving the little girl inside her car.
On the other hand, Dr. David Diamond, a neuroscientist from the University of South Florida, testified that Borgess likely had “Forgotten Baby Syndrome” (FBS) when the incident occurred. According to the International Journal of Current Research, FBS is defined as “unintentionally leaving a baby or young child” inside a locked vehicle.
“Without a doubt, Brittany did not make a conscious decision to leave Samaria in the car,” Diamond, who previously interviewed Borgess, testified at the trial.
Numerous members of the community, however, aren’t buying the theory and are outraged at the verdict.
“Even if it was an accident or ‘forgotten child syndrome,’ it still should have been considered involuntary manslaughter,” local resident Kathy Bower told CrimeOnline. “The very definition of that phrase involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing that results from criminal negligence or a misdemeanor criminal act.”
Another resident, Melanie Thomas, said she felt justice was void in the case.
“I don’t know if it was purposeful or not but in any case it was severe neglect and reckless behavior. She got nothing but a $25 fine! That is a slap on the wrist. You can accidentally hurt someone in any other way and serve time for it. How is this justice?”
“Many do not understand how Brittany ‘forgot’ Samaria but managed to drop off her other child,” resident Cierra Cooke added.
CrimeOnline spoke with Vic Borgess, father of Brittany Borgess, who said their family simply wants the healing process to begin. He indicated his daughter never intentionally set out to harm Samaria and he would like for both sides to come together instead of fighting each other.
During the trial, defense attorney Peter Campana explained to the jury that there wasn’t a question on whether Borgess left Samaria in the hot car. The question, Campana told the jury was, “did Brittany entertain the state of mind to make her a criminal?”
“She didn’t have any motive,” Campana added. “She didn’t want this to happen.”
When asked about evidence in the case, Vic Borgess said authorities took his daughter’s car immediately after finding Samaria, and also thoroughly investigated her Internet history and cellphone information. No evidence existed, according to Vic, that showed his daughter intentionally left Samaria in the car.
“She’s too smart for that,” Fox told CrimeOnline, suggesting that Borgess knew to hide traces of intention.
Vic Borgess said he was aware of the comparison of his daughter to that of Justin Ross Harris, an Atlanta man serving life in prison for leaving his toddler son Cooper inside a hot car for over six hours as well. Although, Harris also went to work the day he left his son in the car, Borgess said that’s where the similarities end.
Unlike Harris, Britttany Borgess, at least at the time, was in a happy relationship with Samaria’s father, Bill Motyka, and was in the process of preparing for her bridal shower. Harris, on the other hand, had been sending explicit messages to other females behind his wife’s back, including underage girls.
Further, evidence suggested Harris performed Internet searches on hot cars and deaths and “how to survive prison,” whereas that kind of evidence did not exist in Borgess’ case.
“I’m not trying to excuse it,” Vic explained. “But just part of the brain process that you know, we lose consiousness or awareness of things…..We didn’t understand it ourselves and through research we found Dr. Diamond. There is real science behind it [FBS].”
The father also touched on social media posts. He said online attacks escalated after the verdict and it’s taking a toll on his family.
For instance, he indicated that a social media user compared Britney Borgess to Casey Anthony, a Florida woman who the general public believes intentionally killed her toddler girl before she was acquitted on all charges. It’s something he found insulting and ludicrous.
Vic Borgess said in his heart he knows that his daughter did not intentionally leave Samaria to die. He indicated that she had too much on her mind that morning, coupled with lack of sleep, as her toddler son had been frequently waking up during the night.
“Listen to the truth,” Vic pleaded. “I’m afraid this [social media] might be stirred up to a point where dangerous people…we just don’t know. They are saying the jury was bought off and the DA was bought off and the police were bought off. It’s just so far fetched. The jury was a pool of people and I didn’t know who they were. They didn’t know anything about the case. They found her not guilty based on the evidence.”
Vic Borgess told CrimeOnline he owns a company that he built from ground up from meager beginnings, but he turned his business into a success via hard work. In turn, his success sparked speculation that he paid off the judge and others in power to ensure his daughter was acquitted, he explained. He said nothing could be further from the truth and people accusing him only see a successful business and make their own theories and conclusions.
Further, he stated that he’s aware that people are upset that certain testimony wasn’t allowed during the trial, but he said that only one side is being heard on social media. He stated the DA in the case didn’t want a psychiatrist to testify on Britney’s behalf that she was not a danger, and the judge agreed with the prosecutor. On the other hand, daycare workers were also not allowed to testify about their observations of possible abuse, as the judge determined it was not relevant to the case.
“Over the weekend they [social media] started to post these pictures of abuse,” Borgess continued. “The truth of the matter is, those pictures, Britney saw those and said, ‘I don’t think Bill and I were even together at that time.’ Certainly if my daughter abused any children I would want to know that, but this was later investigated by Children and Youth Services and were unfounded.”
Melisa Brehm, family friend of Fox, told CrimeOnline that Fox kept a diary of what she considered abuse against Samaria for years.
“Samaria came home with marks on her, red marks around her neck, and Samaria started peeing and pooping her pants, because she didn’t want to go to Brittany’s house! Children & Youth were involved, and then the death happened!”
CrimeOnline saw the photos in question, which depicted Samaria, who appeared to be around two years old, with bug bites and bruises on her legs and face. Fox confirmed that social services said it didn’t find signs of abuse to be credible, but it’s something she was still pursuing when Samaria died.
Regardless, Fox strongly feels that Samaria was being abused by Borgess, and that Borgess left the little girl in the car on purpose. Even if accidental, Sara said it was a “slap in the face” that Borgess left the courtroom with a $25 fine as punishment. She’s now hoping her little girl’s tragedy can help bring about legal change.
“I wish for higher sentencing guidelines for people who are doing this, leaving a child in a car, because I don’t believe all of them are accidents. People, as we can see, are getting off or getting close to nothing and I think it would be fundamental to show people it won’t be tolerated to forget a child. What world are we living in?”
One thing that both sides of the family agree on is honoring Samaria’s name. Perhaps a new law will indeed come from the tragedy, as Fox suggested, while Vic Borgess hopes that everyone can come together to heal, while always remembering and honoring Samaria’s young life.
[Feature Photo: Samaria Motyka/Handout]