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Criminal case filed against mother after investigation of lost boy incident

Friday, August 23, 2013

Greene County Prosecutor Jarrod Holtsclaw filed a criminal case on Friday against the parent of a child who was found walking along a county road in western Greene County on August 9.

Frances J. Rooney, the mother of the two-year-old lost boy, will not be subject to arrest.

Rooney will receive a summons to appear in Greene Circuit Court on Sept. 4 for an initial hearing. At that time, she will be charged with neglect of a dependent involving the dependent being put in a situation that endangered the dependent's life or health -- a class D felony.

The incident has been under investigation since the child was found around noon on Friday, Aug. 9, and a call was made to 9-1-1 by an employee of Smithville Telephone, Tim Lewellyn.

Greene County Sheriff's Detective James O'Malley interviewed Lewellyn and reported Lewellyn said he saw the child walking west along County Road 200 South, alone and without any clothing. He stopped and attempted to make a call but did not have a signal, so he placed the child in his vehicle and drove west until he had a signal. At that point, Lewellyn made the call for help.

Officers from Sullivan County were dispatched to the scene but when they determined the child was actually found in Greene County, Greene County Sheriff's Deputy Dustin Cain was dispatched. An ambulance and emergency medical personnel were also on the scene and transported the child to Greene County General Hospital.

During his initial investigation, Cain contacted the Department of Child Services (DCS) and they sent two family case managers to the hospital to speak to Rooney.

Det. O'Malley reported that hospital records indicated the child had several insect bites, scratches and several areas of his body showed signs of a rash.

The boy was reunited with his family at the hospital and returned to their custody that evening.

According to the affidavit prepared by Det. O'Malley, Lewellyn found the child on the shoulder of the road approximately two-tenths of a mile east of the Greene-Sullivan County line on CR 200S. Lewellyn drove four-tenths of a mile to the entrance to Reservoir #29 where he placed the call at 11:57 a.m. A Sullivan County deputy arrived on the scene at 12:07 p.m.

In an interview with Rooney, she said she was in the process of cleaning the bathroom floor after a toilet had overflowed when she noticed her two-year-old was missing. Wearing a "pull-up" diaper, he had opened the front storm door and gone outside into the yard. She and 11-year-old and five-year-old daughters first searched the home then went outside and searched the yard. Rooney also has an infant, three-months-old. When she could not locate the boy, she went to the roadway where she sometimes takes walks with her children. While searching on the road, she found the boy's diaper, and she sent her children back to the house to retrieve her cell phone. The older children had been asked to stay at home to watch the infant, but they put the infant in a stroller, then pushing the stroller, went to help their mother in the search. She was searching on foot because she could not find the keys to the family's truck. When Scott Dudley drove by, Rooney flagged him down and asked him to help locate her son.

In O'Malley's interview with Dudley, he said he was driving to Linton between approximately 11:00-11:15 a.m. when Rooney flagged him down. Dudley said Rooney told him her son was missing and had probably walked down the roadway. He said she was clearly shaken and distressed and he helped her search along the road then left to go to his residence to put on long pants and boots to return to help search. When he got home, his wife told him the child had been found - the information came from his wife's uncle who had been listening to scanner traffic. Dudley told O'Malley he was not familiar with the Rooneys but had seen the mother, the children and the family dogs walking along the roadway on several occasions. He also said he had traveled the same road earlier in the day, between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. and had not seen anyone.

Rooney reportedly said when the children returned with her cell phone, she called 9-1-1 and the operator told her they had found her son. She also said Dudley returned and told her the child had been located.

O'Malley reported there were several bodies of water and extreme terrain between the area surrounding the Rooney residence and the location where the child was found and it was likely the child traveled the roadway -- a distance of 1.6 miles.

O'Malley wrote that the child's life and health were at risk while walking unsupervised on a road in an area containing many bodies of water.

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This could easily happen to anyone. Kids can get away from you fast. Sounds like she had her hands full. Seriously this could happen to anyone. Thank God this turned out ok and the boy is safe...

-- Posted by eagle26 on Fri, Aug 23, 2013, at 7:22 PM

I agree; this could happen to anyone. I hope & pray her children did not go to foster homes.

-- Posted by cruella on Fri, Aug 23, 2013, at 7:47 PM

There were some pretty righteously indignant people blowing off when this story broke. I think we can agree that we are all glad that things didn't take a tragic turn.

I agree with eagle26. Anyone could be in her exact same circumstances, and have the exact same thing happen.

-- Posted by just sayin'... on Fri, Aug 23, 2013, at 8:18 PM

Criminal charges? WTH?

-- Posted by dorindaJ on Fri, Aug 23, 2013, at 9:23 PM

I have to agree, that being a mother with young children, things do happen fast, and I see nothing that this mother did wrong, charges, I disagree. She lives in an area, common for lakes and forest, I'm sure she had educated her children on those walks about the lakes etc, which you commonly do with young children, so they know what is danger to them. Please, rethink charging this mother, it could be anyone of us, if we lived near the area, which I did live in the forest years ago, when my boy was small, you teach them about the water, and to not get near it, it could of been what saved him.

-- Posted by mimosa11 on Sat, Aug 24, 2013, at 9:17 AM

Oh, P/S... Thank you Tim Lewellyn for finding this child, and for those who were searching for him, including his mother@siiblings. Good Job!!!

-- Posted by mimosa11 on Sat, Aug 24, 2013, at 9:22 AM

A class D felony? Seriously? This can, and has happened to almost everyone who has raised children in some form or another. Unless there is more to this this story, I would like to think she has been punished enough already.

-- Posted by cmfceo on Sat, Aug 24, 2013, at 9:44 AM

Children do get out of our sights and can be very quick about it and with that said, this little one is only two years old, just a baby, toddler and if he's been known to do this before extra precautions should be in place and he should be watched even more so, imo. The thought of what could have happened makes me shudder. Keep your children close! Latches should be placed high enough out of the reach of little ones, there are many to choose from.

-- Posted by sassy12 on Sun, Aug 25, 2013, at 9:36 AM

Thank you, "STAND UP", for commenting on this story. I agree, that if some of you were there at the time this was going on, then why weren't you watching this child, while the mother was cleaning the house?

I had this happen many years ago when my son was a small child, we had safety latches@locks on the doors, but one morning he had figured out how to unlock them, after frantically searching, we found him out in the garden, sitting in his diaper eating strawberries, altho, he hadn't wandered far, and was only outside a few minutes, it could of been me, as I did live out in the country, near the State Forest. Little boys are quick, and love to explore. So, I ask you all to please, not judge this mother, because it can and does happen.

For the officials, who are charging this mother, I ask you to please, rethink the charges, because splitting up these children from the things they know and love, is not always the best thing you can do, and please, don't give this mother anymore grief than she has already sustained.

I'm sure there are other children out there in far worst homes, that should be removed, and haven't been, but this mother isn't one of them. We should thank God, she was out searching for him, as well as his siblings. Not everything, deems removable of children from their homes. Thank you, from a mother who has been there.

-- Posted by mimosa11 on Sun, Aug 25, 2013, at 10:27 AM

I have a sibling - no names - who used to sneak out of the house and go to a corner grocery store and sit on a mechanical pony, People would go by and the big smile given would encourage people to feed the toy so more rides could be had. My mother would freak out but the sib was always found there. My sib was only about 3 when this happened. My mom had 4 kids = the oldest being 4 or 5. She asked for advice from authorities and they actually suggested that she harness the child and tie the harness to the clothes line!! We ended up moving to a smaller community and dad installed locks my sib could not manipulate. The terror my mom went through was intense. She was not a bad person - just overwhelmed with the needs of a large, young family. The mom here is probably under the same strain. I hope CPS and the courts will work with her and help find solutions to better care for her kids. I am thankful that this child did not become a statistic and that such a good person found him!!!!

-- Posted by georgipow on Sun, Aug 25, 2013, at 10:27 AM

This is why parents hesitate before calling law enforcement. Always looking to hang someone....

-- Posted by eagle26 on Mon, Aug 26, 2013, at 7:00 AM

mimosa11 you posted this,"Thank you, "STAND UP", for commenting on this story. I agree, that if some of you were there at the time this was going on, then why weren't you watching this child, while the mother was cleaning the house?"

Am I missing other's posts? Because I can't find a post from stand up and I see nothing in the article where it states that there were other adults there in the home when the child went missing that could have kept an eye on him while the mother was busy cleaning the bathroom?

And there are child proof locks you can install up high where a young child cannot get to, not even if he were to push a chair up to it. I do understand where most commenters are coming from, these things do happen, little ones explore and do get out of sight but it's my understanding from the news article that this happened more than once with this little one so the parents were responsible to ensure that special locks were in place that he couldn't access, this could have turned out very badly for this little guy, glad he's ok and hopefully now locks can be placed so he never does this again.

I raised children myself and they can be in one spot one minute and gone the next but that is the whole point of constantly checking on them and if it seems to quiet suddenly then you usually know somethings up and better go investigate. Being overwhelmed with many children is not an excuse to allow one so young out of your sight for more than a few moments, having said that it happens and we need to show empathy but as said previously this was more than a one time occurrence.

As far as charges being placed against the mother, I don't know the investigation or circumstances surrounding this case except for what was written in this article but I do believe that Prosecutor Jarrod Holtsclaw knows a lot more than the rest of us concerning this situation and I certainly hope he wouldn't purposely split this family up and cause them more grief than is necessary and is doing what he feels appropriate for this child's safety and for the other siblings.

-- Posted by sassy12 on Mon, Aug 26, 2013, at 7:47 AM

I think they did the absolute right thing charging her. We are talking about a two year old walking almost two miles through the woods! Yes, kids can get away from you, a two year old should NEVER be able to get that far away from you! I saw several comments that talked about overwhelmed parents...If you are that overwhelmed stop having kids!

-- Posted by lintonite on Mon, Aug 26, 2013, at 8:38 AM

If we are going to start bringing charges against people who lose a child, better be prepared for a LOT of charges!

I realize there could be things the general public doesn't know, but going by just this article (not rumors), I think the charges are ridiculous.

-- Posted by Hector#1 on Mon, Aug 26, 2013, at 9:50 AM

I really feel like the criminal charges have resulted from community pressure. Since this happened, folks have been calling for mom's head. such a shame. I hope the prosecutors office hears just as much from those who think this woman is being wrongfully charged. Afterall, Riley's hospital saw no signs of neglect

-- Posted by misty.d.kelsey on Mon, Aug 26, 2013, at 10:02 AM

The sign of neglect would be she allowed her two year old to "get away from her" long enough to toddle nearly two miles.

-- Posted by lintonite on Mon, Aug 26, 2013, at 12:41 PM

Reading the article as well as the comments, I can see both sides to the argument on whether charges should have been made or not.

With this being a D felony, perhaps the prosecutor will use this as an incentive for the family to make some drastic changes. It is my understanding that a defered prosecution is available in cases such as this where jail time and a felony conviction might do more harm than good, yet where something needs to happen to ensure the safety of the kids.

As has been commented in other posts, the long-term well being of the kids & keeping the family in tact is the main objective, rather than just trying to send someone to prison.

-- Posted by old linton native on Mon, Aug 26, 2013, at 3:40 PM

Yes, my first post was removed. My point is that removing children from their home can cause more harm than good. A child can be determined to be a Child In Need of Services (CHINS) without criminal charges being filed against the mother. Services can still be provided to the family without tearing the family unit apart. We would all like to think of foster homes as wonderful, loving places with families who have nothing but the best interests of the child as their primary concern. However, while most foster homes are good, that is not always the case. Children love and need their parents. If intervention can be provided without disrupting the family, and without placing the child (ren) at undue risk, then provide in-home services.

How will this family benefit if the mother is in jail for an extended period of time. If she is basically a single parent during the week, then what happens to the kids if she is incarcerated? Who steps up and takes on 4 young children? The same people who are helping her now, which does not appear to be too many people.

Doing what is right is not always the same as doing what is easy.

-- Posted by Stand Up on Tue, Aug 27, 2013, at 8:34 AM

Unless there is more to this story, I don't think she should be charged. It is crazy how CPS leaves kids in bad homes and then charges this mother. A prime example...Daviess Co 2008...the death of Jalen Blake!

read about it here


-- Posted by StrengthNGod on Tue, Aug 27, 2013, at 9:27 AM

What about the stabbing at the Palace Bar...you would think if someone was stabbed five times, that would make the paper...and someone would be arrested...why is that...it's been about a month ago and still nothing....instead this article has been all over the paper...just wondering

-- Posted by srk on Tue, Aug 27, 2013, at 9:48 AM

thanks Stand Up for clarifying your original post that was removed, I didn't see the first post so was confused when another commenter mentioned it. I do agree with you that this mother needs help and if that should be done in her home rather than incarcerating her unless there is more to the story than was said here. Regardless, I do wish the best for her and her children, God bless them all!

-- Posted by sassy12 on Tue, Aug 27, 2013, at 5:31 PM

srk, I was wondering where that story has been also.

-- Posted by lintonite on Wed, Aug 28, 2013, at 8:07 AM

Wow, didn't even know anyone got stabbed at the palace, well guess I wouldn't have known if it wasn't reported...lol

-- Posted by sassy12 on Wed, Aug 28, 2013, at 10:26 AM

StrengthNGod, I did read that article you posted the link to and imo if anything the child protective services is being more cautious even in this case of this 2 yr old lil' boy because of those kinds of cases so I'd think you would be glad that they are checking their p's and q's where he and this mother is concerned. You can't have it both ways.

-- Posted by sassy12 on Wed, Aug 28, 2013, at 10:33 AM

Exactly right lulu54, I couldn't agree more.

-- Posted by sassy12 on Thu, Aug 29, 2013, at 10:58 PM

As earlier stated, there is a history in this situation and more than meets the eye in the above article. Losing a kid for a little while in a store pales in comparison to the conditions mentioned, and unmentioned, in this article.

-- Posted by mcchick88 on Mon, Sep 2, 2013, at 5:06 PM

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