GREENFIELD — The father of a 3-month-old who died after suffering a brain injury last week had a temper he fought to control, the child’s mother told investigators.
Prosecutors filed felony charges Thursday against Charles Jenkins, 21, after his son, Brayden Lee Jenkins, died at an Indianapolis hospital over the weekend. Brayden’s death was ruled a homicide, according to court documents.
The child suffered blunt-force trauma to the head, an autopsy found. Brayden had a severe brain injury and torn ligaments in his upper spine, according to court records.
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Investigators said they believe Jenkins caused the injuries that led to Brayden’s death and had allowed his son to live in unsanitary and unsafe conditions before he died.
Jenkins is charged with three felonies and one misdemeanor: one Level 1 felony count of aggravated battery, one Level 1 felony count of neglect of a dependent resulting in death, one Level 6 felony count of neglect of a dependent resulting in endangerment and one Class B misdemeanor of possession of marijuana.
Emergency responders rushed to Jenkins’ home in the 600 block of Grant Street in Greenfield on Nov. 5 after Jenkins dialed 911 and told dispatchers his son wasn’t breathing.
Jenkins told police he was carrying the baby from the bedroom into the living room when the couple’s dog tripped him. He dropped the baby onto the couch cushions, the baby groaned and gasped but then stopped breathing, Jenkins said.
The child can be heard gasping during the 911 call, reports state.
Jenkins was instructed to put the baby on the floor and start CPR. No one else was home at the time, investigators said.
The couple’s home was in disarray when police arrived, court records state. Officers noted there was a bottle of alcohol on the kitchen table and a marijuana pipe on a table next to the couple’s bed. The home smelled strongly of rotten food and other filth, records state.
Investigators became suspicious when Jenkins changed his story several times about what he was doing before the baby stopped breathing, court records state. At first, he told police he had been feeding Brayden in the bedroom; then, he said Brayden had been in a swing in the living room; and then that, when the dog tripped him, he fell to his knees but placed Brayden on the sofa.
Officers noted the couch Jenkins said his son fell onto was padded. The child’s mother, who has not been charged, told police, “They thought we would know Charles was referring to the arm of the couch and not the couch because it was so soft,” court records state.
Brayden was rushed to Hancock Regional Hospital where he underwent a CT scan.
Doctors told police they found bruising on Brayden’s forehead around his left eye.
Because the baby was not breathing on his own, he was airlifted to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis “for further life-saving measures,” court records state.
Doctors at Riley told police the child’s injuries didn’t match up with Jenkins’ story. They performed tests on the child’s eyes and found hemorrhages there, and they feared the baby wouldn’t survive the night, court records state.
Brayden died a day later, on Saturday.
Police searched Jenkins’ home after Brayden was taken to the hospital. There were dirty dishes in the sink and various bottles of alcohol sitting on the kitchen table. The bedroom was a mess, police said. There was a pipe with residue inside sitting on the nightstand, along with bag of marijuana and a digital scale police said they believe was used to measure the drugs, court records state.
The child’s mother told police the couple smoked marijuana together in the same room where Brayden sleeps on the day the baby was injured, court records state.
The child’s mother told police, “Charles has a temper, but he doesn’t let it get to an extreme,” court records state.
The woman went on to tell police Jenkins pushed her in the days before Brayden’s death, but “he chose to push her softly” when he could have hit her hard. He yelled expletives at her the day Brayden was injured as she was leaving for work, she told police.
Brayden once fell out of his swing while the couple were asleep, the mother told investigators. Another time, Charles dropped a bottle on the baby’s head, which left a bruise, and the woman told police that after the incident, “Charles was afraid she would leave him for beating the child,” court records state.
But the child’s mother didn’t think those accidents would have caused Brayden to suffer a brain injury, she told police.
Jenkins was arrested Tuesday afternoon and booked into the Hancock County Jail on a preliminary charge of neglect of a dependent. Filing formal charges were delayed because the Hancock County courthouse and prosecutor’s office were closed Wednesday for Veterans Day.
Jenkins appeared in Hancock Circuit Court on Thursday for an initial hearing, during which he pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The judge set Jenkins’ bond at $50,000 cash despite Prosecutor Brent Eaton’s request to double that amount.
Several of Jenkins’ family members sat in court Thursday, some sobbing as the charges against him were read. As jail officers placed Jenkins in handcuffs, he cried and called out to his family that he loved them.
This is the second time in six months local prosecutors have sought charges against a parent following the death of a child. In June, Matthew and Jessica Wagoner were arrested after their 1-year-old daughter was found dead in their home. That case is pending.
At a news conference Thursday, Greenfield Police Chief John Jester, whose officers handled both investigations, said cases involving a child’s death are traumatizing for the community and officers alike.
For the city to see two cases in such a short time frame is troubling, he added.
“One is too many,” he said.
If convicted, Jenkins could spend 20 to 43 years behind bars and pay a fine of up to $21,000, Eaton said.