Questions remain after autistic woman left in hot van for more than 5 hours

The 56-year-old is still in critical condition at the hospital

HOUSTON - An autistic 56-year-old woman left in a hot van for at least five hours is still in critical condition.  It's a case that's raising a lot of questions and getting a lot of attention, even from the city of Houston.

Why could a woman not escape a white passenger van for more than five hours? That's a question that haunts the family of Becky Harkins. She was rushed to Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital on Tuesday after she was discovered on the floor of the van. Her sister said she is autistic and cannot speak.

"They had assumed that she was at a doctor's appointment which is why they had not located her earlier," Sgt. T. Richardson with the Houston Police Department.

Her sister told Local 2 that she believes her sister was locked inside the van. The CEO of the Sean Ashley House released a statement which read, "All of our thoughts and prayers go out to our client and her family and we are fully cooperating with the authorities in the investigation to determine how this tragedy could have happened."

On Wednesday, Houston City Council approved an ordinance designed to protect people in group homes. It is a measure that has been in the works for more than a year. In this case, police said the victim was being transported from a group home to the day care facility.

"Hopefully we can cut down on those agencies that are doing those bad jobs and not taking care of those individuals that are in those homes," said Councilwoman Wanda Adams.

So, just how hot did it get inside that van? We locked up a car for more than three hours. A thermometer showed the temperature quickly climbed to more than 120 degrees.

The attorney for the Harkins' family says someone dropped the ball in this case.  Adult Protective Services and the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services are investigating.

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