2 in custody after toddler found dead

GREENFIELD — The death of Zoey Wagoner was not an accident, investigators said.

The parents of the 1-year-old found dead in a Greenfield home Thursday morning were taken into custody late Friday; Matthew Wagoner, 31, and Jessica Wagoner, 32, face preliminary charges of murder and neglect resulting in death, investigators said.

Preliminary autopsy results indicated the injuries Zoey Wagoner suffered before her death were not accidental, though Greenfield Police Chief John Jester declined to release details about her cause of death or comment on the condition of the body.

Emergency crews received a 911 call just after 9 a.m. Thursday after the child reportedly was found unresponsive in her home in the 500 block of Wood Street.

Police officers attempted to revive the girl but were unsuccessful. She was transported to Hancock Regional Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, Jester said.

The child’s parents were being held on preliminary charges late Friday; Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton said the charges could change as their investigation moves forward. Police and prosecutors have been in contact throughout the investigation, but a formal determination on charges will be made once prosecutors have reviewed the final police report.

The investigation is expected to continue throughout the course of the weekend.

“We will work together to see that the people that caused the death of Zoey Wagoner are held accountable,” Eaton said.

‘Now she’s gone’

Word of the tragedy left neighbors shocked.

Virginia McPherson fought back tears as she talked about having seen the baby and her mother the evening before. She was sitting on her front porch Wednesday evening when Jessica Wagoner walked by, pushing Zoey in a stroller.

McPherson spoke with Wagoner briefly; Zoey, she said, looked fine.

The next morning, the street outside McPherson’s Greenfield home was filled with emergency vehicles, and word of the child’s death had spread.

“I just can’t believe it,” McPherson said. “She was just a cute, smiling little baby … and now she’s gone.”

Jester was one of the first to arrive on the scene Thursday. There, he found one of his officers already performing CPR on Zoey Wagoner in the doorway of the home.

“His knees were on the front porch, and he was leaning into the house doing CPR on this baby,” Jester said. “That’s where my officer met the infant … and at that point, our goal was to save the baby,” he said.

Investigation ongoing

Jester said he was unsure who was inside the home when the child was found unresponsive or what happened in the hours leading up to her death. Officials said they expect those answers to come to light in the next few days.

Now, seven of the department’s detectives are working on the case and will continue to investigate in the coming days.

“My staff and Brent (Eaton)’s staff will work on this until it is concluded,” Jester said.

Neighbors said the child’s family is new to the area. Their home in 500 block of Wood Street had been vacant for years before Jessica and Matthew Wagoner moved in a few weeks ago.

McPherson said she was just getting to know her new neighbors, but Jessica and Matthew Wagoner were always friendly. Zoey looked fine when McPherson saw the toddler the night before her death, she said.

Friday’s arrest was not Matthew Wagoner’s first brush with the law; investigators acknowledged he has a criminal history including a domestic battery conviction in 2012. He also has pending charges of child molestation and child exploitation in Henry County. Jessica Wagoner does not have a criminal history, court records showed.

Pull Quote

“We will work together to see that the people that caused the death of Zoey Wagoner are held accountable,”

-Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton

Pull Quote

“My staff … will work on this until it is concluded,”

-Greenfield Police Chief John Jester, on the ongoing investigation

Author photo
Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.