BLUFFTON - A Bluffton woman was sentenced today to 20 years in prison in the death of one of her children who was beaten and set on fire two years ago.
Breanna Arnold, 22, had been charged with several different crimes, including neglect of a dependent, obstruction of justice, abuse of a corpse and dealing methamphetamine. All the charges were dropped except for one charge she pleaded guilty to: preparing meth in a home occupied by children.
Arnold's younger son, Owen Collins, 3, died in the mobile home that Arnold, boyfriend Zachary Barnes and a friend, Zachary Barker, occupied outside of Bluffton on Jan. 17, 2015. Arnold and Barnes wrapped Owen's body in plastic and hid it in a dresser drawer before Barnes and Barker removed the body, tried to chop it up and later took it to a nearby woods and set it on fire.
Arnold initially told police she didn't know what had happened to her child.
She had thought the child had died from eating meth. Later it was determined the toddler had died of blunt force trauma inflicted by Barnes, then 31, who had a history of violence and drug use. He pleaded guilty to murder and was eventually sentenced to 50 years for killing the boy.
Wells County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Harvey argued that Arnold knew what had happened to her child, but when police came to investigate after a family member expressed concern for the child's safety, she wasn't initially cooperative, refusing to tell police anything she knew for more than 12 hours.
Harvey said the body could have been found quickly if she had cooperated and told police the truth about where he child was. It was later determined she had nothing to do with the child's death.
In a statement by Arnold, read to the court by her attorney, Nikos Nakos, she said that on the day that Owen Collins was killed, she was trying to keep herself and her other son, Travis, 6, alive and if she would have acted they would have both ended up dead. She also acknowledged that her younger son had been denied a life becasue of her poor judgment.
Nakos called several character witnesses who described how Arnold had a very hard upbringing. Witnesses included teachers at an alternative school who watched her work hard toward her high school diploma while she was 15, pregnant and working. Witnesses described her as a good mother who tried hard but never had much of a chance.
Nakos asked for a 20-year sentence with 10 years suspended, one year to be served in Community Corrections and the rest on probation.
The prosecution acknowledged Arnold had had a hard life, but pointed out she had various mentors who tried to help her, yet she still turned to drugs. They said Arnold had an obligation to care for and protect her children, but she didn't, and for two months before Owen Collins' death they were cooking meth in the trailer where they lived.
Wells Circuit Court Judge Kenton Kiracofe handed Arnold a 22 1/2-year sentence, with 2 1/2 years suspended. She was also given credit for nearly two years spent in jail awaiting outcome of the case.
Barker, who was 16 at the time of the crime, admitted guilt to abuse of a corpse and dealing methamphetamine. In return, prosecutors dropped counts of neglect of a dependent causing serious bodily injury, neglect of a dependent and altering the scene of a death. Barker was sentenced to 14 1/2 years.