Sunday, March 08, 2009

Deputy Sydney Eghan Charged with Child Neglect

A form of punishment used on a 12-year-old boy led Saturday to the arrest of a Marion County sheriff's deputy and his fiancee.

Sydney S. Eghan, 24, is accused of handcuffing the boy's wrists behind his back and leaving him that way for six hours at the Southside home the deputy shares with Betsy Chestnut, 30, the boy's mother.

The boy would have remained in handcuffs even longer had Chestnut not called 911 about 2 a.m. Saturday after the cuffs had tightened and began cutting off circulation in her son's arms, said Sgt. Matthew Mount of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

"He was in some pretty serious pain," Mount said. "He was having swelling in the arms and swelling in the hands."

Police arrested Eghan and Chestnut on preliminary charges of child neglect. Chestnut consented to Eghan's decision to place the boy in handcuffs, police said.

Eghan works as a jailer for the Marion County Sheriff's Department. The department continues to operate the jail after most of the department was merged with Indianapolis Police Department to form IMPD.

"The sheriff considers this incident to be a very serious matter," said sheriff's Maj. Herman D. Humbles. He said Eghan has been suspended without pay pending an internal investigation.

The incident began when Chestnut suspected Friday that her son had stolen a cell phone from a family friend. Chestnut told Eghan, Mount said, and suggested they turn the boy over to authorities. Eghan disagreed, Mount said, and told Chestnut he would teach the boy a lesson.

At the home where the couple live along with Chestnut's two sons, Eghan placed the boy in handcuffs sometime after 8 p.m. Friday, Mount said, then left for his night shift. He did not intend to remove the handcuffs until he returned to the home about 7 a.m. Saturday, according to Mount.

Eghan made things worse for the boy by failing to follow a standard procedure used when handcuffing offenders, Mount said.

"It appears he failed to double-lock the handcuffs," Mount said. "Double-locking the handcuffs is what . . . makes sure those handcuffs do not tighten down further."

At one point during the night, Chestnut left home with her other son for about 90 minutes -- leaving the handcuffed son alone at the home in the 2900 block of Sleeping Ridge Way.

Had Eghan handcuffed the boy for only a brief period to show him what happens when people break the law, Mount said, the matter likely would not have risen to a criminal offense.

"Appropriate or not, we could argue," Mount said. "If he had gone to juvenile (detention), he would have been handcuffed, so maybe he could have shown him what it's like to be handcuffed half an hour or an hour."

But in this case, the handcuffing continued for several hours and caused injury, leading to the officers' decision to arrest the couple, Mount said.

Both the boys were taken into the custody of Child Protective Services, Mount said.

The criminal case against the couple, who continued to be held at the jail late Saturday, will be referred to the Marion County prosecutor's office for a decision on any formal charges.