BLUFFTON, Ind. (WANE) – Court documents outline gruesome details in the death and treatment of a 3-year-old whose presumed disappearance prompted an hours-long community-wide search on Sunday. Three people are being held by police in the death of Owen Collins. The child was apparently dead, in the home, for almost an entire day before his body was put in a cardboard box, dumped in the woods and set on fire.
The mother of Owen Collins, 21-year-old Breanna J. Arnold and Zachary S. Barnes, 30, were each arrested and preliminarily charged on two felonies: neglect of a dependent resulting in the boy’s death and abuse of a corpse.
An unidentified teenager was arrested along with the couple on Sunday on a felony charge of abuse of a corpse. The 16-year-old had apparently been living with Arnold and Barnes for several months and acted as the babysitter for Owen and his 6-year-old brother.
Formal charges against the suspects have not yet been filed. The state has granted a hold of up to 72-hours, during which time they will remain in jail without bond.
According to information gathered by police after interviewing the three suspects, they were all “shooting dope” in the Normandy Drive home Friday night into Saturday. When Arnold went to check on Owen and his 6-year-old brother on Saturday, Owen was dead.
The teenager told police Arnold came running out of the back bedroom with Owen’s body saying “my baby.” Barnes admitted he suggested they get rid of him. Owen was dead, in the home, for almost an entire day. Barnes and the teenager told police that the child was wrapped in plastic wrap and placed into a dresser drawer in a bedroom.
At some point, according to what the teenager told police, there was a discussion about “chopping him up and throwing him in the river.”
Barnes said that on Sunday morning, he and the teenager put Owen in a cardboard box and got a ride from a woman to Marion. While on their way, they stopped at a wooded area in Wells County. Once they dropped the box with Owen’s body into the woods, Barnes said he doused it with nail polish remover and set on it fire.
While in Marion, Zachary Barnes went to his brother’s home. Zachary Barnes told Joseph Barnes that Owen had gone missing on Saturday night. Joseph Barnes called multiple sheriff’s departments in the area and asked if any children had been reported missing. None had, but the Wells County Sheriff’s Department said they would look into Owen’s disappearance.
When police went to the Normandy Drive home in Mobile Manor around 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Owen was nowhere to be found. Arnold and her 6-year-old son were taken to the Bluffton Police Department, where she signed consent forms allowing police to search the home.
Meanwhile, Marion Police were asked to help track down Barnes. Marion police did find and stop a car that had Barnes, the unidentified teenager and the woman who had given them a ride that morning.
After explaining what she knew, the woman went with officers to help them find the area where Owen’s body had been taken.
The teenager and Barnes stayed in the police department to be interviewed by police.
The badly-burned body of Owen Collins was recovered by officers with the Bluffton Police Department and Indiana State Police at about 8 p.m. on Sunday.
In addition to the admissions police were able to get out of Barnes and the teen, Barnes also mentioned to police how they would put “dope in [the children’s] bottles and watch them have fun.”
Police did find meth-making materials in the home, as indicated by the sign police left on the home’s front door. Barnes told police that the last time they cooked meth was Friday, the day before they found Owen dead.
The cause of death has not yet been confirmed by the Wells County Coroner. Toxicology results could take up to two weeks to come in.