Smith and Bennett

Parents charged with neglect after police find young children ‘wedged’ on pile of trash, beer cans

FRENCH CREEK – Two parents who allegedly “wedged” their two young children in the rear floor of a vehicle on top of trash, empty beer cans and other waste were each charged with gross child neglect Monday.

Laura B. Smith, 30, of Adrian, and Bradley Bennett, 32, also of Adrian, were each charged with two counts of gross child neglect creating risk of injury, a felony, following a traffic stop in southern Upshur County Monday.

According to the criminal complaint in the Upshur County Magistrate Clerk’s Office filed by deputy Tyler Gordon with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department, Gordon initiated a traffic stop on a blue Mitsubishi sedan Monday, April 29, near the Village Hardware gas station in French Creek.

Gordon had noticed the vehicle was outfitted with a defective exhaust system and also had a defective brake light, the file states.

Gordon found four adults in the car, including Bennett, the driver, whose driver’s license was suspended, according to the report. Bennett allegedly admitted to being in possession of a marijuana smoking device and having smoked the substance earlier in the day.

The complaint goes on to say that when the deputy opened the rear passenger door, “[he] observed two small children wedged in the floorboard of the vehicle, between their mother, Laura Smith’s, legs.”

Smith allegedly told Gordon the children – a two-year-old male and a four-year-old male – had been secured in child restraints until she and Bennett, the children’s father, stopped to pick up two adult male friends who had been walking south on Route 20.

According to the complaint, Smith said the two children were removed from child restraints and placed on the floor in the rear of the vehicle so the two males could sit down.

Gordon ordered everyone out of vehicle and searched it. He allegedly found both a marijuana smoking device and methamphetamine smoking device.

The file states Gordon also photographed the area in which the children had been placed: “The children were placed on top of dirty trash, jumper cables, beer cans and other miscellaneous refuse,” the deputy wrote in the complaint.

He charged each parent, Smith and Bennett, with two counts of gross child neglect creating risk of injury.

The penalty for a conviction of child neglect creating risk of injury is a fine between $1,000 and $3,000, imprisonment in a state correctional facility for one to five years or both.

Magistrate Kay Hurst set bond at $50,000 for Smith and $50,000 for Bennett — $25,000 cash or surety for each count.

As of Tuesday evening, Smith and Bennett remained in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail.

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