Mother charged with neglect after child’s death

GREENFIELD — Two weeks after police arrested a Greenfield man whose 3-month-old son died from brain and spinal injuries, prosecutors have sought charges against the baby’s teenage mother, saying she kept the child in a filthy, flea-infested home before his death.

Lauren Hontz, 19, of Greenfield, is charged with neglect of a dependent and possession of marijuana. She pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Hancock Circuit Court.

Hontz let her son, Brayden Jenkins, live in “less than desirable conditions” before the child’s death Nov. 7, according to court documents.

Brayden sustained blunt-force trauma to the head, a severe brain injury and torn ligaments in his upper spine, an autopsy found.

His father, Charles Jenkins, said he dropped the child after tripping over the family dog, but doctors said the injuries were not accidental. The death was ruled a homicide by coroners.

Police believe Jenkins, Hontz’s fiancé, caused the injuries that killed his son, according to investigators. He remains in the Hancock County Jail on $50,000 bond, according to jail records.

Hontz joined him there Tuesday after a warrant was issued for her arrest. Judge Richard Culver set her bond at $2,000 Wednesday.

Police searched the couple’s home in the 600 block of Grant Street in Greenfield on Nov. 5 after Jenkins called 911 to report Brayden had stopped breathing.

The place was in disarray, court records state. Officers found bottles of alcohol on the kitchen table and a sizable pile of dirty dishes in the sink, court records state.

The home smelled strongly of rotten food and garbage, and there was a pile of animal waste on the kitchen floor, court records state. Hontz told police the carpets were being treated for a flea infestation, court records state.

The bedroom was a mess, police said. There was a marijuana pipe with residue inside sitting on the nightstand, along with bag of marijuana and a digital scale that police believe was used to measure the drugs, court records state.

Hontz told police she and Jenkins smoked marijuana together in the same room where Brayden sleeps on the day the baby was injured, court records state.

On Nov. 5, the day Brayden was hurt, the couple were up until 4:30 a.m. smoking pot and slept until past 9:30 a.m., Hontz told police. Around 1:30 p.m., after Hontz had left for work, Jenkins dialed 911 and told dispatchers his son wasn’t breathing.

The child can be heard gasping during the 911 call, reports 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 lifesaving measures,” court records state.

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.

If convicted, he could spend 20 to 43 years behind bars and pay a fine of up to $21,000. At the time of Jenkins’ arrest, investigators said they did not have reason to believe Hontz was directly involved with Brayden’s death.

They said they were looking into whether or not Hontz had neglected the baby by exposing him to drugs and allowing him live in unsafe or unsanitary conditions.

Hontz now faces one Level 6 felony count of neglect of a dependent resulting in endangerment and one Class B misdemeanor of possession of marijuana.

Level 6 felonies carry penalties of six months to 2½ years; Class B misdemeanors carry penalties of zero days to 180 days.

A tentative jury trial has been set for April 12.

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