Man pleads guilty to neglect

Officials: Couple arrested after underfed child labeled ‘failure to thrive’

GREENFIELD — The father of a 6-month-old who weighed just 8 pounds when police began investigating him will spend time in Hancock County Community Corrections after admitting he neglected the child.

Matthew Maxwell, 24, 2109 Crossing Terrace, Apartment B, Greenfield, was sentenced Thursday to serve 2½ years in a low-level security community corrections program after pleading guilty to a Level 6 felony count of neglect as part of a plea deal.

Maxwell originally faced two counts of neglect of a dependent, both as Level 5 felonies — one accusing him of endangering the child and the other accusing him of depriving her of “necessary support,” according to court documents.

He admitted to the latter accusation but as a lower-level felony crime.

The child’s mother, Arianne Werbil, 23, faces the same charges; her case is pending in circuit court, though prosecutors say they have reached a similar plea agreement in her case.

Werbil is expected to plead guilty and be sentenced in the coming weeks.

Police say the couple’s daughter weighed just 8 pounds when she was 6 months old, prompting caseworkers with the Indiana Department of Child Services to request she be examined by doctors.

The child spent a week being monitored by experts at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, who told investigators they were concerned the little girl was underdeveloped because she wasn’t being fed enough, according to court documents.

Doctors at Peyton Manning labeled the girl’s condition as “failure to thrive” — meaning her weight and rate of weight gain were much lower than other children her age, according to the National Library of Medicine.

The baby was admitted to Peyton Manning late on March 14. Maxwell and Werbil left the child there alone that first night, a Tuesday, telling doctors they “would not be back until the weekend at the earliest,” according to court documents.

While the girl was at the hospital, several doctors noted in their reports that no family member was at the baby’s bedside for the five days she was in the hospital, court documents state.

After the couple was arrested, their daughter was placed in foster care, officials said. She remains in the foster-care system, officials said.

As part of his sentence, Maxwell is required to get a job; officials say he hadn’t been working prior to his arrest. He must also comply with requests from investigators in his pending family case with the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Maxwell did not speak during his hearing Thursday.

Circuit Court Judge Richard Culver told Maxwell he hopes he takes this opportunity to be a better father and make sure the needs of his child always come first. Culver told Maxwell to rely on the service-providers around him if he needs additional help.

“You’re the papa bear, and she’s the momma bear, and it’s your job to make sure that cub is taken care of,” Culver said.

Author photo
Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.