In case you missed it – February 18

Judge: Was neglect criminal or a parenting mistake?

GREENFIELD — A judge is mulling whether a local mother whose toddler was found wandering alone in a New Palestine subdivision over the summer is guilty of neglect — or simply made a parenting mistake.

Angel Pennington, 21, 5186 W. Blue Bell Drive, appeared before the judge for a bench trial Monday morning. She faces a single count of neglect of a dependent as a Level 6 felony.

After hearing nearly two hours of testimony, Hancock Superior Court 1 Judge Terry Snow took the case under advisement.

Prosecutors argued Pennington put her 23-month-old daughter’s health and well-being at risk when she failed to properly secure her home to ensure the child could not get outside.

Pennington’s defense attorney, Holly Lyons of Greenfield, chalked the incident up to a parenting mistake. She told the judge Pennington regrets what happened that day and has taken steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

West side solar project gets OK from city officials

GREENFIELD — Solar panels could be installed on the city’s west side as soon as May.

This week, city officials finalized the sale of about 17 acres of city-owned land to the Indiana Municipal Power Agency, giving the green light for construction to start on the city’s first solar panel farm.

The Indiana Municipal Power Agency plans to build a 11,030-panel solar farm on an undeveloped plot of land off Windswept Road. The agency, which provides power to the city that is then passed on to residents, will invest about $4 million in the project to develop land that has served little purpose since it was donated to the city about a decade ago.

Greenfield babysitter admits to felony neglect of infant

GREENFIELD — On the morning she was to appear before a jury, a Greenfield babysitter admitted to neglecting an infant left in her care — but not to battering the child or causing the injuries that left the baby briefly hospitalized.

Terri VanAlst, 25, 830 N. School St., pleaded guilty to felony neglect Tuesday morning in Hancock Circuit Court, part of a last-minute plea deal with prosecutors that also dropped the battery charge she faced.

VanAlst was arrested in November 2015 after police accused her of striking a 5-month-old left in her care so hard, a blood vessel in the baby’s eye ruptured, and bruises were left across her face, according to court documents.

VanAlst is expected back in Hancock Circuit Court next month, where Judge Richard Culver will rule on the terms of her sentence, officials said.

Murder trials cost taxpayers less than anticipated

HANCOCK COUNTY — Offering plea deals to two men accused of murder saved taxpayers as much as $17,000 that would have gone toward their trials.

Three murder cases opened in 2016 have closed — two of the defendants accepted plea deals, and a jury found another man guilty — and the proceedings didn’t cost as much as prosecutors anticipated.

In September, the county council set aside $20,000 to cover the cost of three upcoming murder trials prosecutors worried they couldn’t afford. Those expenses dropped dramatically — with officials dipping into the fund for just $3,000 — after two of the defendants pleaded guilty ahead of trial.