HOWARD COUNTY — A Howard County judge has rejected a proposed plea agreement that would have allowed two alleged child abusers to avoid jail time, serve three years’ probation and then have the convictions expunged from their record.
It’s an update to a story WRTV Investigates first brought you Tuesday regarding a foster mother, Jean Dunn, who raised concerns about the proposed plea agreement.
Judge Lynn Murray rejected the plea agreement during a hearing Wednesday morning and reset the matter for a November 16 pretrial conference and a jury trial for December 13.
Jean Dunn has been fostering children in Central Indiana for four years.
In spring 2020, Dunn took in a little boy who was allegedly abused by his biological mother, Jennifer Trueblood, and her boyfriend Jeramie Jennings.
Dunn says the little boy, who is now three years old, struggles to hear and walk as a result of his injuries.
She appeared in court for Wednesday's hearing and called the judge's decision a "victory" for the little boy.
“We are thrilled that the judge sees the seriousness of his injuries and wasn’t willing to allow this case to be swept under the rug,” said Dunn. “Our fight isn’t over. We will wait to see if they present a legit plea deal or if it goes to jury trial.”
WRTV has agreed not to name the child but has been given permission to share photos of him.
Prosecutors charged them in 2020 with Aggravated Battery Resulting in Loss and Impairment of a Bodily Function, a level 3 felony, and Neglect of a Dependent Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury, also a level 3 felony.
When they were arrested in May 2020, Trueblood spent 10 days in the Howard County Jail and Jennings was locked up for 3 days.
On July 20, 2022, Howard County prosecutors filed proposed plea agreements for both Trueblood and Jennings.
If the judge had approved the agreement, they would have been convicted of a lesser charge of Aggravated Neglect of a Dependent Resulting in Bodily Injury, level 5 felony.
Court records show while there were other adults and children living in the home, Jennings and Trueblood were the boy’s primary caregivers.
Prosecutors’ evidence includes a phone conversation between Trueblood and Jennings in which Jennings was heard yelling and cursing and asking Trueblood why she took the boy to the hospital if she knew they were going to x-ray him, court documents allege.
If the plea agreement had been approved by the judge, the two would have served three years of supervised probation with credit for time served.
“Someone did this to this little boy,” said Dunn. “He cardiac arrested twice. He had multiple brain surgeries. He had broken ribs, a broken wrist, and for this just to be swept away like it's nothing kills me.”
Under the now-rejected plea deal, if Trueblood and Jennings successfully complete their three years of probation, the charge would be expunged from their criminal history.
"Three years and you're going to take it off their record? Who is going to take away his injuries?” asked Dunn. “Nobody is going to help him walk in three years. It's so frustrating."
Most criminal cases in Indiana are resolved through plea agreements, rather than jury or bench trials.
"I'm okay with the plea agreement, but there needs to be some jail time,” said Dunn. “It's like how do you get a slap on the wrist for this? I just feel like they're taking the easy road out. It's frustrating to me.”
We reached out to Howard County Prosecutor Mark McCann.
“I do not comment on pending cases and have been informed that Deputy Prosecutor Michael Krebes has attempted to explain the reasoning behind the Plea to Jean Dunn,” said McCann in an email to WRTV.
Dunn shared an email with WRTV from Deputy Prosecutor Michael Krebes.
“While this is not the ideal result, a sure conviction is better than an acquittal and the successful outcome of a jury trial under these circumstances is very much in doubt,” read the email from Krebes to Dunn.
Jean Dunn has submitted a written statement to the court.
“At the end of the day you're failing the children,” said Dunn. “You're failing these kids."
Court documents say both Trueblood and Jennings denied abusing the little boy and there were other adults and children living in the home at the time.
Trueblood’s attorney declined to comment on the proposed plea agreement and we have not yet heard back from Jennings’ attorney.