Mother of slain Owen Collins pleads guilty to meth charge

The 3-year-old's body was found Jan. 18, 2015

WELLS COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) The mother of a 3-year-old boy whose body was found burned in a woods in rural Wells County agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors on Wednesday that will see her convicted of a drug charge and free of a high-level neglect count and five other felonies related to his death.

Breanna Arnold, the 22-year-old mother of Owen Collins, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Wells Circuit Court to a single charge of Level 2 felony dealing in methamphetamine. As part of the deal with the Wells County Prosecutor’s Office, additional charges of neglect of a dependent resulting in death, neglect of a dependent, altering the scene of a death, abuse of a corpse and obstruction of justice will be dropped.

“Breanna has cooperated totally throughout all of the proceedings,” her attorney Nikos Nakos said. “They took a sworn statement from her. She was always very helpful and and insightful as to the life that she lead with the individual who killed her son.”

Breanna J. Arnold walks into court on Thursday, January 22, 2015.
Breanna J. Arnold walks into court on Thursday, January 22, 2015.

The Bluffton News Banner has reported the deal include a sentence cap of 20 years.

Wells County Deputy Prosecutor Chris Harvey refused to comment on the deal until Arnold is sentenced Jan. 17. He said she remains “presumed innocent.”

Young Owen’s body was found Jan. 18, 2015, in a charred cardboard box in a wooded area. Police had been searching for him after he was reported missing.

Police said that Arnold, her boyfriend, 31-year-old Zachary S. Barnes, and a then-16-year-old Zachary Barker, were all “shooting dope” in their Normandy Drive home on two days before and into the morning. They reportedly told police that at one point, Arnold went into a back bedroom to check on Owen and his 6-year-old-brother, and found Owen dead.

Police found the body of 3-year-old Owen Collins in a woods about 12 miles away from his home.
Police found the body of 3-year-old Owen Collins in a woods about 12 miles away from his home.

Barnes told police that he suggested they get rid of the boy’s body.

At that point, Barnes and the teen told police they wrapped the child in plastic wrap and stuffed him into a dresser drawer. On Sunday morning, Barnes and Barker put Owen in a cardboard box and rode with a woman to Marion. The woman, who spoke to police later, said Barnes put a cardboard box into the back seat of her car. She said she did not know what was in the box.

The woman told police before they made it to Marion, the three stopped at a wooded area and Barnes and Barker set the box with Collins in it down, poured nail polish on it and set it on fire. The scene was some 12 miles from Owen’s home.

In Marion then, Barnes told his brother that Owen had gone missing. Joseph Barnes called the Wells County Sheriff’s Department and asked if any children had been reported missing, which set off a search for the boy.

Days later, Arnold and Barnes were charged. In June 2015, Barnes pleaded guilty to murdering Owen. He was sentenced 50 years.

Barker pleaded guilty in August 2015 to abuse of a corpse and dealing methamphetamine in a separate deal with prosecutors that dropped four additional charges against him. He’s set to be sentenced Feb. 22.

Arnold’s attorney said this is a case where nobody wins, but maybe it can be a lesson for someone in an unhealthy relationship.

“Be careful who you date. Be careful who you hook up with in a relationship,” Nakos said. “A controlling individual such as her partner was caused her to do prison time. She had no criminal record whatsoever up until this date.”