In case you missed it – November 28

Mother charged with neglect after 3-month-old’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 in Hancock Circuit Court this week.

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.

City proposes hikes in water rates, water bills could double

GREENFIELD — Some residents’ water bills could nearly double if proposed water rate hikes are approved in Greenfield.

The Greenfield City Council is proposing an increase in water rates for the first time since 2008 as a way to balance the budget for the water utility, which has consistently cost more to operate than it has earned, officials said.

If an increase in the rate is approved, a household that uses 4,000 gallons of water a month — the average for a small family — will pay about $27 a month compared to $13.82, which they currently pay.

Strong winds damage barns, leave horses displaced

GREENFIELD — Wind damaged three horse barns last week at Edelweiss-Equine Assisted Therapy Center, leaving nonprofit staff scrambling to make repairs to shelter the animals before winter weather rolls in.

Roofing panels were ripped from one of the shelters Wednesday, leaving it uninhabitable for the three horses that stay there overnight. The damage to the other two shelters is less extensive but will require repairs as cold weather moves in, said Cara Pfaff, executive director of the organization.

The shelters aren’t covered under the therapy center’s insurance policy, and a tight annual budget leaves no money for unforeseen expenses, Pfaff said. She estimated it will cost about $500 to make temporary repairs to the shelters, but she hopes to raise close to $5,000 to replace them.

Sitter facing charges of battery, neglect of baby girl

GREENFIELD — A baby sitter accused of slapping an infant in her care is now charged with felony battery in addition to neglect.

On Tuesday, prosecutors filed an additional felony charge against Terri Nicole VanAlst after further review of police reports about the incident, which left a 5-month-old girl hospitalized with bruises to her face and a hemorrhage in one eye, court records state.

VanAlst was charged with neglect, a Level 5 felony, on Nov. 18. After a review of police reports, which detail marks on the baby that “resembled an adult-sized finger,” prosecutors said they think VanAlst struck the child. They decided to file an additional charge, one count of Level 5 felony battery, according to Marie Castetter, chief deputy prosecutor.