Man charged after son’s death admits to neglect

GREENFIELD — A young father accused of shaking his 3-month-old baby to death will serve two decades in prison after pleading guilty to neglect.

Charles Jenkins, 22, of Greenfield, was arrested after his son, Brayden, died of blunt-force trauma late last year, investigators said. Jenkins, who called 911 after his son stopped breathing, denied having hurt the baby.

Jenkins accepted a plea agreement from prosecutors Thursday in which he agreed to plead guilty to a Level 1 felony count of neglect of a dependent resulting in death, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Marie Castetter said.

The agreement calls for Jenkins to spend 20 years in an Indiana Department of Correction facility followed by 11 years on probation and home detention, Castetter said. In exchange, prosecutors will drop the remaining two felony charges and one misdemeanor he faces, she said.

If Jenkins had been convicted of all counts, he would have spent 20 to 43 years locked up, officials said at the time of his arrest.

All plea agreements are considered pending until a sentencing hearing has been conducted. Jenkins will return to court for sentencing June 27, when the agreement will become official if approved by a judge.

Jenkins’ son died Nov. 6 after suffering a severe brain injury and torn ligaments in his upper spine, investigators said. Medical examiners ruled Brayden’s injuries were consistent with shaken-baby syndrome and ruled his death a homicide, police said.

Jenkins was arrested in the days following his son’s death and was charged with three felonies; prosecutors alleged he caused the injuries that killed his son and allowed the little boy to live in unsanitary and unsafe conditions before he died, according to court records.

Jenkins was the last to see his son alive, police said.

First-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.

The child can be heard gasping during the 911 call as dispatchers give Jenkins instructions on how to preform CPR, according to police reports.

Jenkins told police he was carrying Brayden in the living room of the family’s home when he tripped and dropped the baby onto the couch, court documents state.

Brayden was rushed to Hancock Regional Hospital, where he underwent a CT scan before being airlifted to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis “for further life-saving measures,” court records state. Doctors who examined the child later told police Jenkins’ story about what happened didn’t match the child’s injuries, records state.

Officers found Jenkins’ home in disarray, court documents state. There was a pipe with residue inside sitting on the nightstand in the bedroom, along with bag of marijuana and a digital scale police said they believe was used to measure the drugs, court records state.

After Jenkins’ arrest, prosecutors filed criminal charges: 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.

The conditions of the home, which Jenkins shared with Brayden’s mother, Lauren Hontz, 19, led investigators to file neglect charges against the child’s mother as well. Hontz faces a Level 6 felony count of neglect of a dependent and one Class B misdemeanor of possession of marijuana. Her case is pending in Hancock Circuit Court.

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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.