Charges filed against couple accused in 3-year-old’s death

Photos of Breanna J. Arnold (left) and Zachary S. Barnes (right) as they walk into court on Thursday, January 22, 2015.

BLUFFTON, Ind. (WANE) – Two adults charged in the death of a 3-year-old whose body was found badly burned in the woods in rural Wells County are each facing six felony charges.

Zachary Barnes and Breanna Arnold both face the following charges:

  • Neglect of a dependent resulting in death – level 1 felony
  • Two counts of neglect of a dependent – level 5 felony
  • Obstruction of justice – level 6 felony
  • Altering the scene of death – level 6 felony
  • Abuse of a corpse – level 6 felony

The neglect of a dependent charges all claim that Barnes and Arnold knowingly placed dependents in a situation that “endangered the dependent’s life or health” by “[permitting] methamphetamine to be manufactured and/or kept in [the] residence.” The charges were filed against the two on Thursday following a 72-hour hold.

The mother of Owen Collins, 21-year-old Arnold and Barnes, 30, were arrested on preliminary charges on Sunday. An unidentified teenager, who has only been identified as “Face” in court documents, was also arrested at that time on a preliminary felony charge of abuse of a corpse. A call to the Wells County Probation office on Thursday indicated that his case was sealed. Earlier in the week, the Wells County Prosecutor was not sure if they would pursue trying him as an adult.

The father of Owen Collins went to the hearing on Thursday to face the people charged in his son’s death. Before entering the courthouse, Tyler Collins prayed with friends and family who came to support him. Once inside, he stood, jaw clenched, and shook violently as the charges were read against the mother of his son and her boyfriend. The most severe charges against the two are the neglect of a dependent resulting in death charges, a level 1 felony. Tyler Collins is shocked the charges weren’t more severe.

They are each being held on $300,000 bonds. Arnold and Barnes can each bond out of jail with $20,000 in cash and another $10,000 from a bails bonds service. They are scheduled to be in court for a pretrial hearing on March 11. If they are convicted of the charges against them, they could serve almost 60 years in prison.

Three-year-old found dead on Sunday

According to information gathered by police after interviewing the three suspects, they were all “shooting dope” in their home Friday night into Saturday morning. When Arnold went into the back bedroom on Saturday to check on 3-year-old Owen Collins and his 6-year-old-brother, Owen was dead.

Barnes admitted to police that they would sometimes put “dope in [the children’s] bottles and watch them have fun.”

After finding Owen dead, Barnes said he suggested they get rid of him. 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 and the teen told police they ended up wrapping the child in plastic wrap and placing him into a dresser drawer. Barnes told police that the following morning, on Sunday morning, he and the teenager put Owen in a cardboard box and got a ride from a woman to Marion. The woman told police Barnes put two bags of clothing in the car and put the cardboard box into the back seat. The woman said she didn’t know what was in the box. 

After getting stuck in a ditch, the woman stopped near a wooded area in rural Wells County, more than 10 miles away from the Normandy Drive home in Mobile Manor. 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 spoke to his brother, Joseph Barnes, and said that Owen had gone missing. Joseph Barnes called the Wells County Sheriff’s Department 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.

Police arrived at the Normandy Drive home around 12:30 p.m. Owen was nowhere to be found. Arnold was at the home and taken to the police station with her 6-year-old son, 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. She is not facing charges.

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.Information from the coroner, including when they believe Owen died, has not been released. Toxicology results can take up to two weeks to come in.

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