Deal made in child-battery case

GREENFIELD — Prosecutors have agreed to drop a child-battery charge against a Greenfield woman if she successfully completes an anger management program, officials said.

Kimberly Long, 23, was arrested in December amid allegations she struck a young girl left in her care after the child refused to go to bed and then gave the child a mild sleep-aid when she wouldn’t stop crying, according to court documents.

Long’s case nearly went before a jury this week before prosecutors penned an agreement with Long, requiring her to remain under the supervision of the Indiana Department of Child Services for the next year while attending anger management counseling and child-care classes, court records state.

Though Long did not plead guilty in case, she admitted “that probable cause has been found … for the offense of battery on a person less than 14 years of age,” the agreement reads.

Investigators are required to have probable cause, or reasonable suspicion and evidence that a crime has been committed, before making an arrest and filing criminal charges against a person.

Police began investigating Long last year after the child’s father took the girl to Hancock Regional Hospital after reportedly finding bruises on her body, court documents state. The girl told investigators Long struck her because she had been misbehaving, records state.

Long was charged with a Level 6 felony count of battery on a person less than 14 years old and arrested.

That charge will remain on Long’s record until she can prove she successfully completed the Department of Child Services program. A hearing has been scheduled for August 2017 in Hancock Circuit Court to review the case, records show.

If Long does not complete the courses as she has been ordered, the criminal case against her will continue, Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton said.

Police photographed red marks that doctors found on the girl’s body after she’d been left in Long’s care, court documents state.

The child said Long struck her because she wouldn’t go to bed, police said, and the child repeated those claims when questioned by social workers, court records state.

Long admitted to hitting the girl when interviewed by police, but she said did not believe she’d hit the child hard enough to leave bruises, court documents state.

Long told police when she tried to put the child to bed, the girl threw a fit, according to court documents. The girl yelled, screamed and kicked her bedroom door, Long said; she told police she struck the child only once, court documents state.

She told investigators she then gave the girl melatonin, an over-the-counter hormone that promotes sleep, to help calm her down, court documents state.

Long said she acted only to correction the child’s behavior, not abuse her, officials said.

Law enforcement officials must do their best to protect children, but they cannot interfere with people’s private decisions about disciplining the children in their lives, Eaton said.

Police investigated Long as they should have, Eaton said, but when it became clear Long had no pattern of abusive behavior, it made prosecuting the case challenging, he said.

The girl was hurt, but the injuries were not long-lasting or permanent, Eaton said. The agreement his office penned with Long holds her accountable and was appropriate for what happened, he said.

Long did not return calls for comment.

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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.