Pair of trials set in neglect cases

2 Hancock County women charged with harming children under their care

GREENFIELD — Two local women accused of neglecting a child left in their care are headed to trial next week in separate criminal cases.

Angel Pennington, 21, 5186 W. Blue Bell Drive, will appear before a judge Monday to argue she’s not guilty of harming her young daughter, who was found wandering alone in a New Palestine neighborhood, according to court documents.

On Tuesday, a jury of Hancock County residents will begin to hear the state’s case against Terri VanAlst, 25, 830 N. School St., a babysitter who is accused of slapping an infant so hard that the child was hospitalized, according to police.

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Each woman faces a neglect charge; VanAlst is also accused of felony battery.

Pennington was arrested in late September, about a month after her 23-month-old daughter was found alone in the Gem Meadows subdivision in New Palestine.

Neighbors called 911 after spotting the child near the intersection of county roads 500W and 100S, where she was being jumped on by what appeared to be an aggressive dog, according to court documents.

Neighbors knocked on the front doors of the closest houses, but no one who answered was able to identify the child, court documents state.

Police arrived and canvassed the area further. As it turned out, the child had been in Pennington’s front yard the entire time, but she did not answer investigators’ knocks, police said.

Officers were only able to get Pennington’s attention by shouting into the home through an open storm door, according court documents.

Pennington told investigators she didn’t realize her daughter was gone. She told police the child must have climbed out of her crib and walked out of the home while Pennington was asleep on the couch, court documents state.

Pennington waived her right to a jury trial last month, opting instead to let a judge decide her fate in a bench trial, records show. She’ll appear in Hancock County Superior Court 1 at 9 a.m. Monday. Judge Terry Snow is expected to oversee the proceedings.

The state’s witness list consists mostly of the police officers who investigated the case, officials said. Pennington’s attorney, Holly Lyons of Greenfield, did not return a request for comment.

Pennington is charged with a single count of neglect of a dependent as a Level 6 felony. The count carries a maximum penalty of 2½ years in jail.

VanAlst’s case dates back to November 2015.

Police say a baby left in VanAlst’s care was struck so hard a blood vessel in the baby’s eye ruptured and bruises were left across her face.

VanAlst told police she was looking after three children at the time of the incident, including the child who was injured, and stepped outside to smoke a cigarette, court documents state.

She told police that from outside, she heard a scream and ran back into the house to find the baby, red-faced and crying, court records state. She told police she immediately took the child to Hancock Regional Hospital. Staffers there sent the little girl to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis for more specialized tests, court records state.

Doctors at Riley told police the child had two long bruises on the left side of her face, and a blood vessel had burst in her left eye, according to court documents. The mark appeared to be caused by an adult hand, court documents state.

VanAlst initially was charged with one count of neglect of a dependent as a Level 5 felony, and prosecutors later added a Level 5 felony count of battery. Each count carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison.

Jurors will report to Hancock Circuit Court at 8:30 a.m. beginning Tuesday. Judge Richard Culver is expected to oversee the proceedings.

Prosecutors expect the case to be resolved after a day of testimony. Robert Elsea of Greenfield, Pennington’s attorney, did not return a request 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