Suspects in court for Pulaski County child abuse case
Five of the six people charged with failure to report in the Pulaski County child abuse case--where a toddler was locked in a box--appeared in court for the first time Friday.
“A society is judged on how it treats its most unfortunate individuals. The ones who need the most protection are always children,” said Pulaski County Prosecutor, Daniel Murphy.
To do what he can to protect these children, the prosecutor has charged Shawn Griffin, Jr., his mother, Thelma Meeks, her nephew, Michael Meeks, Jr., Thelma’s boyfriend, Derrick Butala, Anna Senesac, and her brother, Timothy Senesac with failure to report child neglect.
“Failure to report is fairly rare. It’s usually a charge of neglect or abuse that’s followed up on. In this case, because of the large number of individuals who were aware of the situation apparently, we decided to act,” said Murphy.
All five pleaded not guilty.
“We have a law in Indiana that says if you are aware of it, you have an obligation to come forward and report it either to the DCS or to the law enforcement in your jurisdiction, so that we can act to protect, because there’s no way a child can protect themselves,” said Murphy.
Prosecutor Murphy says it’s difficult for law enforcement, and even child services, to prevent the neglect.
“Recognize that both operations, or both arms of this, are reactive. We don’t go in and kick doors down to just check and see how you’re doing. There has to be some basis for us acting,” he said.
If convicted, the six people charged with failure to report are looking at 180 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
The defendants didn’t want to speak with our crew at the hearing, but the prosecutor turned over summary interviews from when police first arrested the adults in connection with the abuse case.
In her summary interview with police, Anna Senesac said Patricia Meeks said about the young girl: “She has an eating disorder and is lactose intolerant, so she must be kept in the box to keep her from eating things she shouldn’t.”
The prosecutor believes Patricia Meeks is one of those people who’s at the root cause. He’s charging her, her mother, Donna Short, and Short’s husband, Chris, with neglect of a dependent.
Both Chris and Donna claim in their interview summaries that “she gets in and out of the box herself.”
Donna’s son, Michael Meeks, said in his interview that “he does not like how she is treated and that she does not get the attention she needs.”
One day, he says “he unlocked the box” and found her “soaked in urine.”
Even with people saying they saw that child in the box, everyone had their reasons for not reporting it.
“Donna Short is family to him,” said Shawn Griffin in his summary interview.
Anna Senesac said in hers that she “didn’t want to start drama.”
Police assure us that the six children taken out of that house are now safe and being monitored.