(BLOOMFIELD) - There's been some new developments in the criminal case against the mother of a toddler that was found walking along county roads in western Greene County last August.
The mother of the 2-year-old child, Frances Roonery, was charged with a felony charge of neglect of a dependent and the case was headed to trail later this month, but no longer. The parties have entered a pretrial diversion agreement and the case will likely be dismissed in a year. Rooney was not taken to jail at the time of her arrest, but issued a summons to appear in court.
Under the terms of the agreement, Rooney is charged with a misdemeanor, not a felony. However, the defendant does not admit guilt. The defendant must pay fees and court costs of $330 for the pretrial diversion program, perform 24 hours of community service work within 90 days, continue to cooperate with the Department of Child Services and meet some other terms and conditions.
If Rooney fails to comply with any terms of the agreement, the case would proceed.
If Rooney does comply with all of the terms, then the charge will be dismissed in 12 months.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Tim Lewellyn an employee of Smithville Telephone, found the child and called 911.
Lewellyn told police he was driving through the forest on business when he came across the crying child.
The child was covered in bug bites, scratches and bruises. Lewellyn wrapped the boy in his shirt, gave him something to drink and took him to an area where he could get a signal on his cell phone and dialed 911 and reported Lewellyn found the child walking west along County Road 200 South, alone and without any clothing.
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 probable cause affidavit prepared by Det. O'Malley, Rooney told police 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 a three-month-old infant.
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 pushed the stroller 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 -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 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. and had not seen anyone.
Rooney told police when the children returned with her cell phone, she called 911 and the operator told her they had found her son. Dudley returned and also told her the child had been found.
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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