Mother pleads guilty to neglect

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield mother of an infant who died after suffering a spinal cord injury will spend two years on probation for allowing her young son to live in an unsafe home before his death, officials said.

Lauren Hontz, 20, 712 Lake Drive, Greenfield, was arrested shortly after her 3-month-old son, Brayden Jenkins, died while in the care of her boyfriend. Hontz was not home at the time. During the investigation into the baby’s death, police said they discovered poor living conditions in the couple’s home.

This week, Hontz accepted an agreement from prosecutors in which she pleaded guilty to a Level 6 felony count of neglect causing endangerment, court document show.

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

Brayden’s death was ruled a homicide by coroners, and police accused his young father of causing the fatal injuries.

Charles Jenkins, 22, of Greenfield, pleaded guilty in June to a Level 1 felony count of neglect of a dependent resulting in death. He is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence.

Investigators said they do not believe Hontz was involved in Brayden’s death, but she let her baby live in “less than desirable conditions,” charging documents state.

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 home was in disarray and smelled strongly of rotten food and garbage, police said.

Officers found a pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, animal waste on the floor and flea-infested carpets, court records state.

An array of empty alcohol bottles cluttered the kitchen table, and a marijuana pipe with drug residue inside was found sitting on a bedroom nightstand, along with bag of marijuana, court records state.

Hontz told police she and Jenkins smoked marijuana together in the same room where Brayden slept in the early morning on the day the baby died, court records state.

Hontz was at work when Jenkins called 911. He later 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.

The boy died Nov. 7 after two days of treatment at Riley Hospital for Children, where doctors said his injuries were inconsistent with Jenkins’ account of what happened.

Jenkins was arrested and charged with 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. He pleaded guilty to the Level 1 felony earlier this year.

Hontz was charged with one Level 6 felony count of neglect of a dependent resulting in endangerment and one Class B misdemeanor of possession of marijuana about two weeks after her boyfriend was booked into the Hancock County Jail.

The misdemeanor count Hontz had faced was dropped as part of her plea agreement. If Hontz successfully completes probation, the Level 6 felony count she pleaded guilty to will changed to a misdemeanor on her criminal record, officials said.

A hearing on Hontz’s progress in probation has been set for September 2018 in Hancock Circuit Court, according to court records.

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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.