Mother’s neglect of dependent resulting in death conviction upheld

A woman convicted of felony neglect of a dependent resulting in death after she left her infant son in the care of his father, who she knew had previously expressed thoughts of harming the child, did not find relief from the Court of Appeals of Indiana.

Appellate judges on Monday upheld Chelsea Marksberry’s conviction in Chelsea Denise Marksberry v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-1959.

Marksberry, Jacob Bengert and their infant child, K.B. lived in the basement of a friend’s home together. Both Marksberry and Bengert used illegal drugs in and out of the presence of K.B.

On Jan. 8, 2020, Marksberry left K.B. in Bengert’s care despite knowing that K.B. had sustained physical injuries while in Bengert’s care in the past. Marksberry also knew that Bengert was a drug abuser, had expressed thoughts of harming K.B. and had voiced thoughts of suicide.

The day K.B. died, Marksberry laid down for a nap upstairs after consuming Xanax while Bengert and K.B. remained in the basement. Marksberry went to work as a restaurant server at 4:30 p.m. Meanwhile, the homeowner who lived upstairs spoke with Bengert in the basement of the house and noticed K.B. in his bouncy seat, covered in a blanket and with a propped-up bottle.

Marksberry returned home briefly, but she did not check on — or otherwise interact with — K.B. However she did speak with Bengert, who appeared sad and had been crying. Marksberry then went to a tanning facility, purchased and ingested heroin and returned home at 10 p.m.

Marksberry went downstairs to go to sleep but, again, did not check on K.B., who was also downstairs next to the bed. The next morning she found K.B. dead.

Bengert fled the residence but was apprehended by law enforcement and later convicted of murder.

Appellate judges also upheld Marksberry’s Level 1 felony neglect of a dependent resulting in death, finding sufficient evidence to support the conviction.

“Marksberry testified that she was aware that Bengert was a heroin abuser and that she had witnessed Bengert care for K.B. during periods when Bengert was using heroin,” Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote. “Marksberry was aware that K.B. had sustained injuries while in Bengert’s care on multiple occasions, including an incident during which Bengert dropped K.B. while on the stairs. Bengert’s Facebook messages expressed frustration with K.B., and some of those messages implied that Bengert wished to act violently toward infants.

It further noted that leaving K.B. with a caretaker with a history of significant drug abuse, in whose care the child had been injured on multiple occasions, “clearly meets the requirement of knowing that there is a high probability that the child is exposed to actual and appreciable danger.”

“We are similarly dismayed at the number of times that Marksberry had the opportunity to attend to K.B., who was silent and covered by a blanket, and failed to do so. This combination of failures and oversights culminated in the tragic death of an infant child. The evidence was sufficient to sustain a conclusion that Marksberry knowingly placed her child in a situation that carried a substantial risk of death,” the appellate court concluded.

On a final note, it concluded that the evidence was sufficient to show that placing K.B. in a dangerous situation was the reasonably foreseeable cause of K.B.’s death. How or why Bengert killed K.B. was not pertinent to the analysis.

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