Autopsy results awaited in 3-year-old’s death

Mug shots of Zachary S. Barnes and Breanna J. Arnold (Provided Photos/Wells County Sheriff's Department).

BLUFFTON, Ind. (WANE) – Three people are facing charges in the death of a three-year-old boy who inspired a day-long community-wide search in Bluffton on Sunday.

Police said someone called the Wells County Sheriff’s Department asking officers to check on people in a home in the 500 block of Normandy Drive, which is in Mobile Manor. The caller appeared to know someone in the home and said he “wasn’t acting right.”

The sheriff’s department called Bluffton police to do the welfare check. When police went to the home around 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Owen Collins, 3, couldn’t be found inside. Police, firefighters and citizens began to search the area. Posts and pictures were also shared across social media as the community rallied to help find the little boy.

Police spoke to Zachary Barnes and an unidentified 16-year-old in Mobile Manor, who they say eventually led them to a wooded area in rural Wells County. Bluffton Police Chief Nathan Huss said the two admitted that Owen was dead when they took his body to the woods.

Officers with the Bluffton Police Department and Indiana State Police recovered the body of the child at about 8 p.m. on Sunday. The spot where the body was found is more than 10 miles away from the mobile home on Normandy Drive, where police believe the child died.

Three people have been arrested in connection to the death. They face the following charges:

Breanna J. Arnold, 21, Bluffton:
Neglect of a Dependent Resulting in Death, a Level 1 felony

Zachary S. Barnes, 30, Bluffton:
Neglect of a Dependent Resulting in Death, a Level 1 felony
Abuse of a Corpse, a Level 6 felony

Unidentified 16-year-old male, Marion:
Abuse of a Corpse, a Level 6 felony

Chief Huss said Arnold was the boy’s mother and that Barnes was the boyfriend of the mother. Chief Huss said the unidentified minor was a friend of Barnes. Barnes and Arnold are expected to make initial court appearances Tuesday at 1 p.m.

Indiana State Police found materials used to make meth in the Normandy Drive Home, as a sign placed on the home’s front door on Monday indicates. The notification from Indiana State Police states that while the known hazardous chemicals had been removed, there could be substances, contamination or waste products still on the property.

The identity of the body found in the woods will be confirmed following a Monday autopsy. More information on the cause and manner of death is also expected to be released.

When asked why an Amber Alert wasn’t issued Chief Huss said there was nothing to put out to the public that was going to help in this case. There was no confirmed abduction and no vehicle linked to the missing child. Click here for more information on Amber Alert protocol in Indiana.

The Wells County Sheriffs Office, Ossian Police Department, Indiana State Police, Indiana Excise Police, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Bluffton Fire Department, Wells County EMS and K9 units from the Indiana Search & Response/Indiana DHS District 3 Search & Rescue Task Force helped in the search.

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