Prosecutor: Toddler was murdered and abused, DCS could have prevented it

Local

ANDERSON, Ind. (WISH) — Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said a new autopsy report shows the death of a 1-year-old earlier this year was murder. 

Prosecutors are planning to file murder and child molestation charges in connection to the February death of Harlan Haines. 

Jennifer Harris is Harlan’s mom. 

Cummings said her boyfriend, Dylan Tate, told police the child had a medical problem so he started driving Harlan to the hospital but crashed on the way. 

“It’s pretty clear the accident was staged,” Cummings said. “As well, the injuries are inconsistent with an automobile accident.”

Cummings, who showed photos of Harlan’s injuries to a News 8 reporter, said an autopsy report shows Harlan died of blunt force trauma to the brain. 

He said the boy was sexually abused and found with injuries to his genitals. 

“Someone had stuck rags in his mouth to keep him from screaming,” Cummings said. “That’s the kind of pain this poor child was going through.”

Prosecutors filed neglect charges against Harris and Tate in April. 

The couple is still in jail and Cummings said he’ll likely charge them both with murder and child molestation this week or next week. 

“The mother clearly had to know what was going on. I mean, it’s been going on for months.That’s why she had a duty to protect that child as well and she clearly did not do that,” Cummings said. 

The prosecutor said the boy was under DCS supervision and he suffered a broken leg in December of last year. According to Cummings, DCS did not report the incident to local law enforcement in Madison County. 

“For a reason that nobody really can understand or explain, that child was given back to the mother and given access to the same person that perpetrated those injuries in December,” Cummings said. 

“That person,” according to Cummings, is Tate. 

DCS spokesperson Noelle Russell said in a statement Wednesday “Our hearts break any time we learn a child has been lost.”

“While we can’t comment on DCS involvement with any family, the Anderson community should know we, too, grieve the death of Harlan Haines,” the statement said. 

“They didn’t do their job,” Cummings said of DCS. “It was a colossal failure that cost this child his life.”

Harlan’s father, Jackie Haines III, told News 8 in February that he didn’t think his son’s death was an accident. 

“I don’t see how anybody could hurt just a little baby boy like that. It wasn’t his fault. He didn’t deserve that,” Haines said in February. 

Haines said he did not want to comment on this story and directed a News 8 reporter to his attorney. He said in February that he did not have custody of Harlan and had not seen him in a few months.

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