Couple charged in child-neglect case ordered to serve 18 months on probation

CROWN POINT — A judge accepted plea agreements Thursday for an East Chicago couple charged in a child-neglect case and ordered each to serve 18 months on probation.

Freddie L. Bonner, 29, and Shajuana Winters, 26, pleaded guilty in September to neglect of a dependent, a Level 6 felony.

If they fail at probation, they would face serving the remainder of their sentences in jail or prison.

Bonner and Winters each admitted in their plea agreements that they took their then-1-year-old son to St. Catherine Hospital in April 2020 and medical staff determined that the boy had a broken femur.

During the course of the boy’s medical treatment, doctors discovered that he also had six rib fractures and red marks and scabs on his back and buttocks. The fractures were determined to be at least 10 days to a few months old, records state.

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Bonner and Winters admitted that the child’s injuries occurred between December 2019 and April 2020, but they had not sought medical treatment for their son.

The couple must also complete parenting classes, their plea agreements state.

During the couple’s change-of-plea hearing, Lake Criminal Court Judge Samuel Cappas said he was disgusted by what he read and warned defense attorney Steve Mullins that he wanted to see evidence supporting the agreements.

Mullins and Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Bruno didn’t get into the facts of the case during Thursday’s sentencing hearings.

After court, Mullins said Bonner and Winters “went above and beyond” after the Indiana Department of Child Services became involved and their children were eventually returned to their custody.

The couple didn’t seek medical care in a timely manner, but they weren’t responsible for the child’s injuries, he said. “That person was never prosecuted.

“They really are a nice young couple, and they’re doing the best they can.”