New details emerge in court docs about neglect and murder of 4-year-old, grandmother shares heartbreak

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NEW CASTLE, Ind. — A New Castle father and his girlfriend are facing murder and neglect charges in connection to the death of the man’s 4-year-old son.

After an investigation that spanned several months, Jacob Davis, 28, and Michelle Key, 34, were charged Monday with murder and neglect of a dependent resulting in death.

Darien Davis, 4, died in January at a trailer home in the 300 block of Glenwood Drive. Jacob Davis called authorities to the home after he said he found the boy unresponsive in the living room. Darien was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to a probable cause affidavit, the day of Darien’s death the trailer’s thermostat was set at 90 degrees. The temperature was 85 degrees inside. Darien’s body was hot and entering a stage of rigor and livor mortis. 

“Well, the police officers came to my home on January 12, and informed me that my grandson had passed away. And at the time we didn’t know anything,” said Darien’s Maternal Grandmother, Rene Jackson.

Jackson used to care for Darien and his little sister until August 2018 when her husband passed. What she remembers the most is his spirit and playful demeanor.

“He was a very loving active little boy that just loved to run and play with his sister and his cousins. He was just full of life and to know that he is gone there’s no reason,” said Jackson.

She says her daughter was in and out of jail so Darien’s father Jacob filed for custody in March 2019. 

“My daughter, she got visitations every other weekend for 45 minutes at a public park. And we noticed in September of ‘19, that was the last time we spoke to Jacob or any of them,” said Jackson. 

In court documents, authorities described the boy as “extremely pale, extremely thin to the point his knees were extremely large when compared to the legs” with “cuts, abrasions, and bruising over most of his body. Most notable was a cut over his right eye and the eye appeared swollen shut.”

Officials said Darien weighed just 25 pounds and was 3’3″ tall when he died.

An autopsy found he died due to complications of severe dehydration and malnutrition and neglect, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Other details in the court documents are new to her, like the thermostat being set at 90 degrees the day of Darien’s death, the fixed lock on the bedroom door, the number of feces in the trailer, and in his diaper.

“We didn’t even know about the lacerations over Darien’s eye and his eye being swollen shut, we didn’t know that,” said Jackson. 

His grandmother says they noticed Darien was smaller and weaker than normal during some of those visits and they began to take pictures to compare side by side. 

Documents say the New Castle Pediatrics office hadn’t seen Darien since March 2019 when he was 33 pounds. The Davis’ did not show for his September check-up.

Jackson claims they went, officials but heard nothing.

“I feel like they gave Jacob all the authority because of my daughters situation of being in jail and they thought she was a bad person,” said Jackson. 

Prevent Child Abuse Indiana says neglect is the most common form of maltreatment. 

“Neglect is by far the most substantiated form of child abuse. And that’s true nationally to it’s well over half nationally too,” said Director of Programs, Sandy Runkle-Delorme. 

She adds that warning signs of neglect may be harder to spot.

“We need to be looking at does the child appears to be underfed or malnourished? Is there a behavior that might signal something is wrong like lethargy? No energy? We really need to look at these signs and go ahead and make those reports or express those concerns,” said Runkle-Delorme. 

Jackson hopes this advice will help others look for the signs while pursuing justice in her grandson’s case. 

“I will miss him for the rest of my life. He was my first blooded grandson and Jacob took him, Jacob and Michelle took him away from us,” said Jackson.

Davis and Key are being held in the new castle jail without bond. If convicted, they could each face more than 100 years in prison.

If you have any concerns about child abuse or neglect and would like to make a report call the Indiana Department of Child Services hotline is 1-800-800-5556.

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