Mother of 2 charged with neglect after police find tired, dirty 5-year-old caring for underweight infant sister

The 5-year-old boy would come to school tired, dirty and hungry, his teachers and counselors said.

He would wear the same pants nine days in a row, despite his school sending him home with new clothes months earlier. School staff would wash his coat — sometimes as often as every other day — to try to get rid of the smell of urine.

The little boy would dive to the floor to get food that was dropped by his peers. And he told his teachers he would get up in the middle of the night to feed his 3-month-old sister, according to police reports.

The infant was more than four pounds underweight, and doctors at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health said the baby wasn’t being fed, the report said.

Earlier this month, the children’s mother, Cheyanne Vernice Meredith, 21, Nashville, was charged with neglect of a dependent. She was arrested last week. According to the police report, Meredith left the Edinburgh home she had been staying in after an argument with her relatives.

Police began investigating more than seven months ago, and inside the Edinburgh home found animal feces and urine on the floor, trash cans overflowing and no clean clothes, the report said.

The time that lapsed between the initial investigation and a criminal charge being filed was due to prosecutors needing additional information, deputy prosecutor Ryan Bland said. Whether the children have been in her care in recent months is unclear, and that information is confidential.

In January, a therapist at East Side Elementary contacted police about concerning behavior by the boy at school, according to the police report.

Officers talked to the boy at school in February, when school staff reported he had injuries to his face. The boy first told the officer he fell and hit his face, before telling a few other stories about how he was hurt, the report said.

They visited the boy again a few days later, and noticed he was dirty and his hair had not been washed. His teacher, counselor and school nurse all said that was normal for the boy, the report said.

His teacher told police the boy is always hungry, and staff at the school had to teach him how to use a fork. He will eat food that other students drop on the floor, the report said.

School staff sent the boy home with several boxes of clothes around Christmas, but months later had not seen him wear any of them. Most days, he wore the same outfit. The school had also gotten him three coats, and all were lost. They then began washing his coat for him at school, the report said.

The little boy had missed 20 days of school by February, and appeared tired most of the time, his teacher told police. The boy had said he gets up at night to feed his infant sister, and that his mother doesn’t help, the report said.

Relatives the mother and children had lived with said Meredith does not bathe the children regularly, and that either they or the little boy often feed the baby. They told police Meredith would sneak out of the home to be with her boyfriend, the report said.

They also told police about seeing the little boy fall down the stairs, and then seeing Meredith apologize to him for pushing him, the report said.

School staff also told police about injuries they had seen on the boy, including marks on his face in February. He had told school staff that his mother had smacked him, and he fell, the report said.

Police and an Indiana Department of Child Services caseworker visited the boy’s home in February, and the mother would not let them inside, saying she had 15 to 20 dogs that would bark and jump, and that her relatives she stays with would not want people inside, the report said.

Meredith told them her son has ADHD and his medication wears off later in the day, causing him to be hyper. She told police that sometimes the boy is violent toward himself when his medication wears off, and that he makes up stories and lies, the report said.

A few days later, Meredith told the caseworker not to speak to her son anymore, or she would seek to have the caseworker arrested and charged, the report said.

Police searched the home a few days after that on Feb. 11, and found at least four dogs inside the home. The home had no gas service, and was being heated with space heaters. They found animal urine and feces on the floor, black mold on the little boy’s uncovered mattress and dirty dishes and clothes all over the floors, the report said.

Meredith, 31 S. Johnson St., was held at the Johnson County jail on $2,200 bond.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.