The first child to die was 18-month-old Harlan Haines. A coroner ruled his death a homicide.
Two days later, a 4-month-old boy from Alexandria died from a heroin overdose.
This year almost a dozen children under the age of 18 allegedly died from the neglect of a caregiver in Madison County. Five of the children were 2 years of age or younger. Six were under the supervision of the Indiana Department of Child Services.
“Nowhere else has this kind of problem, with children, as we’ve had in the past year,” said Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings. “Nowhere else in the state.”
Cummings said they are waiting on a final confirmation, but there have been about 10 or 11 deaths under the age of 18 involving alleged neglect.
No one has been charged in the death of the 4-month-old boy who died on Feb. 27, but Cummings said the case is under investigation and there will be charges.
Cummings said the number of deaths attributed to neglect this year is unprecedented.
“I can’t imagine seeing anything close to those numbers before,” he said. “I think it’s a combination, personally, of poverty and drug use and lack of education. There’s just a number of factors coming together making this really a horrible year for young children.”
Harlan Haines, 18 months, died Feb. 25
Dylan Tate, who was living with Harlan’s mother, told police he found Harlan gasping for air when he woke up to get a drink of water, according to court records. He said he drove Harlan to the hospital without waking the boy’s mother, Jennifer L. Harris, but crashed his vehicle into a pole not far from his Anderson residence.
Tate told police a driver in a passing car drove him and Harlan to Community Hospital where physicians were able to revive the child who had stopped breathing, according to the affidavit.
Harlan was transferred to Indiana University Health Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis where he later died.
Paisley Hudson, 23-months, died July 28
Madison County Coroner Marian Dunnichay said Paisley died from a blow to her head and two lacerations to her liver that caused internal bleeding. The little girl also displayed signs of other injuries.
She was pronounced dead at St. Vincent Anderson Hospital shortly after her mother, Kayla Hudson, drove the little girl to the emergency room from the Red Roof Inn where she was living with her boyfriend, Ryan Ramirez.
Ramirez, 29, of Chesterfield, was caring for Paisley in the hours before her mother told police she came home from work to find her daughter lifeless and cold. Ramirez was charged with the murder of Paisley and Level 3 felony neglect of a dependent.
Hudson, 25, was charged with Level 1 felony neglect of a dependent causing death and Level 3 felony neglect of a dependent causing serious injury.
Jaxon Stults, 2, died Sept. 5
Cummings said Jaxon was under the supervision of DCS in Madison County before his death. He said the family had just moved to Daleville from Anderson.
Jaxon died of heat exhaustion. He was found inside a parked car at the Salem Place Apartments.
His mother, Britni Wihebrink, told police she had been drinking the day of her son’s death and was taking a nap with him before he went missing.
Wihebrink is charged in Delaware County with felony neglect of a dependent and obstruction of justice. Her trial date is set for April 1.
Ryder Stephen died Oct. 29
Ryder was in the care of his stepfather, Jacob Wootton, when he was found unconscious Oct. 26 in his home in the 2700 block of South K Street in Elwood.
When questioned by police, Ryder’s mother, Alyson Stephen, said she put Ryder in an infant bathtub while she got ready for work and left him in the bathroom when she went to work.
Ryder was pronounced dead three days later by doctors at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
Following Ryder’s death, Wootton was charged with Level 1 felony neglect of a dependent causing death, Class A misdemeanor invasion of privacy: violation of a no contact order, and resisting law enforcement; Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana, and Class C misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia.
His mother was charged with Level 1 felony neglect of a dependent causing death.