Clearwater Police officers arrested a man Thursday and charged him with Child Neglect after he left his daughter locked in his car while he attended a court hearing at the Pinellas County Courthouse. 

  • Dean Baaj, 51, arrested and charged
  • Baaj left daughter locked in with sun roof open
  • Temperature 82 degrees outside at time child was found

According to detectives, Dean Baaj, 51, arrived at the Pinellas County Courthouse around 8:45 a.m. for a 9 a.m. hearing. He left his daughter inside his 2004 Mercedes with the doors locked and the windows rolled up. He did leave the sun roof open.

Around two hours later, a passerby reportedly heard the girl calling for help and informed a deputy outside the courthouse. Clearwater Police responded to the scene, made contact with and questioned Baaj, then took him into custody.

The outside temperature at the time the child was located was reportedly 82 degrees.

Fire Rescue medics found the girl to be unharmed. She was released into the custody of her mother, who was also at the courthouse for the hearing. 

Baaj was transported to the Pinellas County Jail. 

Neighbors react

Baaj was in court that morning for a domestic violence restraining order filed by the child's mother that alleges Baaj struck her while she was holding the child, threatened her, and destroyed her boyfriend's car. 

The judge granted the order of protection, and documents show the order was amended following Baaj's arrest this afternoon, ordering Baaj have no contact with his child along with the mother.

Baaj's neighbors said the claims about Baaj's actions today were hard to believe.

"I was shocked, because he seemed so attentive to the little girl and so nice out there," said Rebecca Pawley. "He's always with her when she's riding her scooter or bike. He's kicking a ball that glows in the dark and stuff and she always seemed so happy, so I was just totally shocked."

Pawley went on to say she thought Raaj should have asked for help with the child.

"Why didn't he leave her with someone else?" she asked. "I mean, come on, he could've come over here and said, 'I have some personal business,' -- he didn't have to tell me. We would have watched her."