Frances J. Rooney, of Linton, was charged on Friday with neglect of a dependent/putting a dependent in a situation endangering the dependent’s life or health, a class D felony.
This charge stems from an August 9th incident where Rooney’s naked two-year-old son was found wandering alone through the Greene Sullivan State Forest.
Smithville Telephone Engineer Tim Lewellyn was driving through the forest on business when he saw the child, who he described as being covered in debris, bug bites, scratches, and bruises. Lewellyn put his shirt on the boy and drove until he could find a signal on his cell phone to call the sheriff’s department.
Authorities responded, and the child was taken to Greene County General Hospital. Since then Lewellyn, along with many other concerned citizens, has been waiting to find out if criminal charges would be filed as a result of the incident.
On the 9th, Greene County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Dustin Cain contacted the Greene County Department of Child Services and took Rooney and her other children to the hospital to recover her son. Rooney met with Mary Stewart and Doug Chastain, of DCS, at the hospital.
On August 14th, Greene County Sheriff’s Department Detective James O’Malley met with Lewellyn to determine where he had discovered the missing boy. The spot where Lewellyn found the two-year-old is 1.6 miles from the boy’s home.
According to a probable cause affidavit, on the morning of August 9th Rooney stated that the boy had wandered away from home.
She said she had told her five and 11-year-old daughters to get dressed because they were going to town. She could not remember the time of day it occurred, and said she had been in the process of cleaning the bathroom floor after a toilet had overflowed. She stated that after about 10 to 15 minutes had passed she noticed her son was missing.
Rooney reported that she was told by her older daughter that her son had opened the storm door at the front of the home and went outside. She said he was wearing a pull-up diaper when she last saw him, and that her two daughters helped her search their home and yard for the child.
Rooney said she sometimes walks the roadway with her children and dogs, so she went to check the road by foot since she could not find the keys to her vehicle. She stated she told both her daughters to stay home with her 3-month-old son.
She told authorities she found small footprints, dog tracks, and her son’s diaper along County Road 235 South.
Rooney said her other three children left the yard and caught up to her, so she told them to run back home and bring her cell phone to her. She then flagged down a man who was driving towards her, and asked him to help find her son. The man left to put on long pants and involve his sons in the search, and Rooney continued to look for the boy.
When Rooney’s daughter brought her the phone she called 911 and learned that her son had already been found. After the man she had flagged down returned to her he also informed her that her child had been located, and Rooney said she asked him to go to her son and bring him home since she could not find her truck keys.
O’Malley interviewed Rooney’s 11-year-old daughter, who said she saw the boy open the storm door at the front of the house and walk outside. She said her brother had done that on numerous occasions, and that she told her five-year-old sister to get him and bring him back inside to get dressed. She also reported that she thought her sister would bring him back inside, and that she did not think he would leave the yard.
The 11-year-old said her mother had told her to watch her baby brother and stay in the yard while Rooney searched for her two-year-old son. She stated that she put the baby in the stroller and went to help her mother, and her mother sent them home to get her cell phone.
The man who Rooney flagged down for help said she was clearly shaken and distressed when she asked him to assist in finding her son. When he left his vehicle to help her look along the roadway he saw several small human footprints pointing westbound along County Road 235 south.
The man reported that he asked if she had contacted the sheriff’s office, and that she replied she had sent her children home to retrieve her phone. The man then went home to prepare for the search, and his wife told him her uncle had heard on his police scanner that the child had been found. The man added that he had walked the same roadway earlier in the day and had not seen anyone or anything.
Hospital records indicate the boy had insect bites and scratches, and that several areas of his body showed signs of a rash.
Several bodies of water and extreme terrain lie between the child’s home and the area he was found in.
O’Malley stated in the probable cause that he believes it would have taken the two-year-old boy much longer than 10 to 15 minutes to walk 1.6 miles, and that the child’s life and health were at risk walking unsupervised on a road in an area containing many bodies of water.
“I’m just glad something got done,” said Lewellyn in response to news of the charges being filed.
An initial hearing is scheduled for Rooney at 9 a.m. on September 4th.
You can read NewsBarb’s previous articles on the incident here.