The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, November 12, 2019 10:41 am

Man pleads guilty in neglect of toddler

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A Fort Wayne man charged with injuring a 2-year-old girl in his care last year pleaded guilty this morning in Allen Superior Court. 

Zachary A. Copeland, 20, pleaded guilty to felony neglect and could be ordered to serve four years of a six-year prison sentence, according to a plea agreement. He could avoid time behind bars, though, if he is eligible for work release "or direct placement in (Allen County) Community Corrections for assessment, education and treatment," the document states. 

Two years of the sentence would be suspended as part of the deal with prosecutors. 

The girl suffered a skull fracture and bleeding on the brain, according to court documents. Copeland and his girlfriend, Mercedes Tyree, 26 – the girl's mother – told doctors Dec. 2 the toddler fell from her bed and landed on a pile of toys. 

Doctors found "there did not appear to be a plausible accidental explanation and that ... the injuries were inflicted and not accidental," a probable cause affidavit alleged. 

Copeland had been charged with neglect of a dependent and battery with serious bodily injury to a person younger than 14, but he pleaded guilty to a less serious neglect charge, which carries a maximum prison sentence of six years. 

The other charges will be dismissed. 

Tyree also is charged with neglect. A trial is scheduled next week, but prosecutors have filed paperwork asking for it to be postponed.

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