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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Death threat charge added for mother in child 'cell' case

Saturday, January 26, 2013

(Photo)
April Wilson-Witt
The case just keeps growing against the Cloverdale couple charged in connection with the confinement of one of their children to a cell-like room without access to basic needs.

In Putnam Superior Court Friday, April Dawn Wilson-Witt, 31, was formally charged with intimidation, a Class D felony, for allegedly making death threats against an Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) caseworker who had come to talk with her at the Putnam County Jail.

Wilson-Witt is the estranged wife of Michael Shane Witt, 33, the Cloverdale man charged earlier this month with confining his stepson to a cell-like room without access to food, water or toilet facilities.

The latest incident unfolded as a DCS case manager and caseworker-in-training visited the jail about 3 p.m. Jan. 14 to interview the Witts, both still incarcerated at PCJ, and inform them the state was taking custody of their children.

The husband and wife were interviewed separately in the attorney visitation area at the jail, and when Wilson-Witt entered the room, she became "very agitated" and started speaking loudly, Col. Thomas Helmer's incident report indicated.

The caseworker walked out of the room, the report notes, with Wilson-Witt screaming and cursing at her.

The DCS caseworker re-entered the room after a jail officer attempted to calm the suspect. However, Wilson-Witt began yelling again, and reportedly threatened the woman by shouting, "I will kill you and your (expletive deleted) kid."

With that, the DCS worker terminated the interview. In reaction, Wilson-Witt reportedly stood up, slammed her fist down on the table, grabbed the paperwork in front of her and reiterated her threat.

"I swear to God, I will (expletive) kill you and your (expletive) kid as soon as I get out," Deputy Helmer's report noted.

Jail personnel then reportedly had to forcibly restrain Wilson-Witt as the caseworker exited the facility.

Senior Judge T. Edward Page Friday entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of the defendant. The charge of intimidation is a Class D felony, which carries a penalty of six months to three years in prison, along with a maximum $10,000 fine.

The intimidation charge is now one of three cases pending against the Cloverdale woman, Deputy Prosecutor Jim Ensley told the court. Wilson-Witt was originally arrested Jan. 10 for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and a probation violation.

The Putnam County Prosecutor's Office has also filed a neglect-of-dependent charge against her in the child confinement case that drew wide media attention following the Jan. 2 court appearance of her estranged husband.

Neglect of a dependent is a Class C felony, punishable by 2-8 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Judge Page said Friday he had to legally set bond in the latest case at $10,000. However, with Wilson-Witt being held without bond in the previous matter, he was quick to point out, "This doesn't mean you're going anywhere."

"Oh, I know," Wilson-Witt responded.

Judge Page set an 8:30 a.m. Feb. 27 hearing as the next step in the proceedings and appointed attorney Trudy Selvia to represent Wilson-Witt in the case.

The confinement case surfaced Dec. 29, authorities said, when Shane Witt became enraged after his stepson spilled sugar on the kitchen floor, and confined the 10-year-old to a room at the rear of their Cloverdale apartment at 202 N. Main St.

The probable cause affidavit alleges Witt "did knowingly abandon or cruelly confine" the minor child in a room without sanitation in an "act of cruel or unusual confinement that deprived (the boy) of necessary food, water and sanitary facilities."

Michael Shane Witt has been charged with neglect of a dependent, battery causing bodily injury and domestic battery as a result of the incident at the residence he shares with six children and stepchildren.

April Dawn Wilson-Witt's presence and actions at the home during the police investigation that day have also resulted in the neglect-of-dependent charge against her.

According to court documents, it was while interviewing the Witts that a Cloverdale officer noticed a "strong odor of urine and feces" coming from a back bedroom area. He later observed a closed door resembling a cell with a rectangular slot cut out and an extension cord protruding from it.

He also discovered a stool in the middle of the room with the center of the seat cut out. Positioned crudely over a trash can fitted with a trash bag, it was being used to collect human urine and feces.

When police suggested the room was devised to punish the children, Wilson-Witt lashed out at her husband.

"You see, Shane," court records note she stated, "this is why you don't call the police. They're going to take the kids away."

The children have been taken by child services and were reportedly moved out of county.

A not-guilty plea has been entered on all counts for Witt with a Feb. 6 pretrial conference set as his next step in the court process.