(BURNETT COUNTY, Wis.) — Two Wisconsin parents have been charged with negligence in the death of their 3-year-old daughter. They are accused of getting high and ignoring the little girl, who wandered off and drowned in an unguarded canal steps from the couple’s home.
Jenna Danish, 33, and Thomas Jay Williams Jr., 42, turned themselves in to police Sunday, more than a month after daughter Reena Williams, 3, died.
Neighbors told police that the little girl routinely went missing, and had been spotted up to a mile away from home in one such instance. The girl, they said, according to a criminal complaint filed with the Burnett County District Attorney, often appeared dirty and unkempt.
“They don’t pay too close attention to their child,” one witness told police, according to court documents.
On Aug. 14, neighbor Wanda Sperling found Reena a half a mile from home and returned her to her father, who acted as if it were “no big deal,” according to documents.
Moments later, however, the girl wandered off again.
On Aug. 15, Reena was found drowned in the canal, 25 yards from the couple’s home in an area that would be visible from the home’s kitchen if not for sheets covering the windows.
When police searched the home in the course of the investigation, they said they found marijuana, synthetic marijuana and drug paraphernalia alongside Reena’s sippy cups and toys.
“Was this a tragic accident or was there a history of neglect and drug use,” Burnett County Sheriff Dean Roland said to ABC News.
“The evidence in this case is very strong that there was prior history of negligence by these parents,” he said.
“There is also very good evidence that these parents used drugs and used them on the day [their daughter] went missing.”
If convicted, the couple face up to 25 years in prison. Officials did not know whether the couple had yet obtained lawyers.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
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