Two face charges of neglect in connection with 18-month-old Anderson boy's death

Harlan Haines (Submitted photo)
Mom arrested in baby's death
Mom arrested in baby's death
Mother arrested in toddler's death

ANDERSON, Ind. (WTHR) — Indiana’s Department of Child Services is coming under fire following the death of a child and his mother's arrest in Anderson.

Jennifer Harris was arrested on a charge of felony neglect of a dependent leading to death.

Harris is the mother of an 18-month-old boy who died under suspicious circumstances in February.

And on Thursday there was a second arrest in the case. Our newsgathering partners at The Herald Bulletin say police took Dylan Tate into custody for neglect of a dependent causing death. Tate is the former live-in boyfriend of Jennifer Harris.

Harlan Haines was taken to the hospital after a traffic accident in Anderson on February 24. Medical personnel found bruising that was not consistent with a car crash. They also found pieces of paper towel lodged in the toddler's throat.

The boy's biological father shared photos of Harlan with Eyewitness News. Several photos of Harlan show him with smiles on this face, but prosecutors will paint a completely different picture in court.

“This child suffered horrible injuries for at least a two-month period with multiple trips to physicians about injuries,” said Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings.

Initially, investigators thought Harlan died from injuries in that February crash with his mother’s boyfriend. The boyfriend, who is no stranger to the law with jail booking photos from unrelated cases, told police he was rushing Harlan to the hospital. The boyfriend struck a utility pole.

But now Harris faces charges in the case. 13 Investigates learned that prosecutors are in possession of photographs that show Harlan suffered a string of abuse in his young life. The photographs show horrific bruising all over his body and obvious signs of extensive sexual abuse which also include trauma to his genitals and buttocks.

Anderson attorney Bob Summerfield represents the boy's biological father.

The boy's father reportedly met Harris at an adult entertainment club. The two entered into a relationship that resulted in the birth of Harlan but the relationship hit rough terrain resulting in the father not being able to spend time with the boy.

“He blames himself,” said Summerfield, “He wishes he had done more. He tried to do more. His biggest failure as a parent is he relied on DCS to just do their job."

DCS documents obtained by 13 Investigates show in December 2017, a caseworker investigated swelling on Harlan's head and a fractured tibia. There are notes in the documents about a doctor uncovering a fractured leg bone. In one explanation for injuries and swelling on the boy's head and face, the documentation makes mention about a fake Christmas tree falling onto the boy. Despite medical personnel questioning the validity of the explanation, the boy remained in the custody of his mother.

The same DCS documents show the caseworker ruled possible abuse as "unsubstantiated."

“DCS is an epic failure. This baby did not have to die," said Summerfield.

Summerfield filed a tort claim saying Harlan's death resulted from paper towels obstructing the child's airway and that Harlan suffered critical injuries prior to and unrelated to the auto accident.

Summerfield argues DCS owed a duty to Harlan and his client Jackie Haines. The Madison County prosecutor agrees.

“The people who are supposed to be protecting our children are not living up to that responsibility,” said Cummings.

As Harris awaits further court proceedings, the prosecutor is sounding the alarm, saying Harlan is not their only baby death. Cummings wants everyone from DCS to the governor to get the message that their child protection services system is broken, especially since Haines is the second Madison County child under to die under DCS watch. He’s dealing with a case involving a 4-month-old baby whose death is connected to heroin.

The investigation into Harlan's death is ongoing. The Marion County coroner is awaiting toxicology results investigators hope will answer other questions.

Harris is due in court next Tuesday via closed circuit video after a judge granted prosecutors a 72-hour extension to finalize charges.