Parents plead not guilty

GREENFIELD — The parents of a 1-year-old found dead in a Greenfield home last week pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and neglect Tuesday morning in Hancock County Superior Court 1.

Family members of Zoey Wagoner, whose death was ruled a homicide, gathered at the Hancock County Courthouse to watch the proceedings.

A dozen of Zoey’s loved ones were in the courtroom as her parents, Matthew and Jessica Wagoner, appeared for their initial hearings.

Some sobbed softly. Others scowled, bristling at the sight of the child’s parents.

If convicted of both charges, the Wagoners face more than 100 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines: Murder carries a penalty of up to 60 years and $10,000 in fines, and neglect of a dependent causing death, a Level 1 felony, carries a penalty of up to 40 years and $10,000 in fines.

Zoey Wagoner was found dead in her home in the 500 block of Wood Street in Greenfield on Thursday morning, having suffered multiple blunt-force trauma injuries, including lacerations to her liver, court documents state. A baby sitter called 911 around 9:30 a.m., saying the child was blue and unresponsive.

Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton asked the judge to hold the couple in jail without bond.

Judge Terry Snow set bail for Jessica Wagoner at $250,000 and Matthew Wagoner, who has pending child molestation charges in Henry County, at $500,000.

It appears unlikely either can bond out.

Both told Snow they owned no property and had less than $100 to their names. Jessica Wagoner said she had been employed by Indiana MENTOR, working with people with disabilities, prior to her arrest; Matthew Wagoner said he had been unemployed for the past four months.

As she left the courtroom, Jessica Wagoner’s lower lip quivered, and she fought back tears. Matthew Wagoner was somber and answered Snow’s questions in a hushed voice. Neither spoke to the family members who attended.

Neither of Zoey’s parents has admitted to involvement in her death; in interviews with police, each accused the other of being abusive toward the child, court documents state.

Prior to the initial hearing, the Department of Child Services conducted a hearing regarding Jessica Wagoner’s two other children living in Hancock County.

Greenfield Police Chief John Jester said his officers and DCS are working diligently to make sure those children are properly cared for. He did not say whether the children were with family members or had been placed in foster care.

“Every step will be taken to ensure the safety of those children,” he said.

A tentative trial date for the Wagoners has been set for Oct. 19.

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