GREENFIELD — A local mother whose toddler was found wandering alone in a New Palestine neighborhood did not neglect her child, a judge ruled.

Hancock County Superior Court 1 Judge Terry Snow decided this week that Angel Pennington, 22, 5186 W. Blue Bell Drive, New Palestine, isn’t guilty of the Level 6 felony neglect charge she faced.

Pennington waived her right to a jury trial in January, opting instead to let a judge decide whether she had neglected her young daughter when the child crawled out of her crib during a nap and left the home. After hearing nearly two hours of testimony last month, Snow took the case under advisement and issued his ruling this week.

Neighbors found Pennington’s 23-month-old daughter alone in the Gem Meadows subdivision, located near the intersection of county roads 500W and 100S, last August.

At the time, she was being jumped on by what appeared to be an aggressive dog; she was not injured when neighbors picked her up, reports state.

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 Pennington — who later said she was napping — did not answer investigators’ knocks, police said.

Officers were able to get her attention only by shouting into the home through an open storm door, according to 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.

Prosecutors argued Pennington put the toddler’s health and well-being at risk when she failed to properly secure her home so the little girl could not get outside.

When she appeared before the judge last month, Pennington told the judge she often sleeps while her children are napping but keeps her door open so any noise they make wakes her. She’s not sure how her daughter managed to make it down the hall and outside without startling her, she said.

Her attorney, Holly Lyons of Greenfield, chalked the incident up to a parenting mistake. Not all parenting mistakes amount to neglect, she told the judge, and not all neglect is criminal.

Pennington was arrested Sept. 26. She was released from jail on her own recognizance that day, court records show.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.