GREENFIELD — An 8-year-old wandered into a Fortville gas station one night earlier this month and told a clerk he’d been left alone with his 1-year-old brother for hours, and he needed help because he was worried and afraid of the dark.
Now, the children’s caregiver faces a pair of felony charges, accusing her of neglecting the two young boys.
Candice Coffin, 33, of Fortville, was arrested Tuesday afternoon on two Level 6 felony counts of neglect of a dependent. She appeared in Hancock Superior Court 2 Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to the allegations she faces.
An employee at a gas station and convenience store in Fortville called 911 around 9:40 p.m. July 24 and asked that a police officer come speak to an 8-year-old who had come into the shop alone. She was concerned about his well-being, court documents state.
The clerk told police the little boy had walked into the store alone twice that day, according to court documents.
At first, the boy told the clerk Coffin had left him home alone while she took two other children to a park nearby to play. The boy had said he wasn’t allowed to go to the park because he had to watch his baby brother, who was asleep at the time, court documents state.
The boy told the clerk he was nervous because it was getting dark outside, and there were no lights on in his house, the woman relayed to police, according to court documents.
The woman said she walked the child back home — about a block away from the gas station — and told him to come find her again if the baby woke up or if they were still alone when it got too dark.
The 8-year-old returned to the gas station a few hours later at about 9:30 p.m. — nearly half an hour after the sunset that night. He told the clerk he was still home alone, but his brother was now awake, and he didn’t know what do to, court documents state.
The clerk told officers she called 911 immediately.
The clerk told officers she knew Coffin, and the woman had come into the convenience store on earlier that day, looking intoxicated and disoriented, court documents state.
Officers drove the young boy back to his home.
The front door was unlocked, and the 1-year-old was alone in a back bedroom of the home, court documents state.
Both children appeared to be fine, but officers contacted representatives from the Indiana Department of Child Services, who came to Fortville to further investigate.
Police and state caseworkers had been at Coffin’s home for about an hour when she arrived back home with the two other children. Investigators determined all four children would be removed from her care and placed in foster care.
Coffin faces two Level 6 felony counts of neglect of a dependent, each carrying a potential penalty of 2½ years in prison.
Coffin was being held in the Hancock County Jail on $2,000 bond at press time.