Craig Mother Sentenced in Toddler Son’s Christmas Eve Death

The mother of the toddler boy who died in a house fire on Christmas Eve in 2018 has been sentenced in Moffat County District Court. 27-year-old Vanessa Jenkins changed her plea from Not Guilty to Guilty of Criminally Negligent Homicide, a class 5 felony, in November ahead of her scheduled December trial. According to the arrest warrant affidavit, the house fire was started by 3-year-old Lane E. Cullen who had learned how to play with lighters in which the safety devices were removed and Jenkins admitted that her son had already set fire in the house on a previous occasion. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation determined the fire was most likely started by the lighter being used by Lane. Law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office jointly stated in a November press release that Ms. Jenkins negligently and unreasonably placed the child in a situation that resulted in his death. Jenkins was in court on Monday and was sentenced to probation and 90 days in jail, a much lighter sentence than had been recommended. A press release from the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office stated that, “Under the terms of the plea agreement, Ms. Jenkins faced up to three (3) years in the Colorado Department of Corrections for the homicide, which is the maximum penalty available under the law for Criminally Negligent Homicide. Both the District Attorney’s Office and the Probation Department recommended a three-year prison sentence, but ultimately the sentence was left to the Court’s discretion, and the Court chose to sentence Ms. Jenkins to four (4) years of supervised probation and ninety (90) days in the Moffat County Jail.” District Attorney Matt Karzen gave a response to the sentencing. “There is nothing that can undo Lane Cullen’s death,” shared Karzen. “Although we advocated for a stronger message of general and specific deterrence with the sentence in this case, in the end sentencing is within the discretion of the judicial branch and we fully respect the autonomy of the judiciary. It is now up to Ms. Jenkins to take ownership of what she has done, and to abide her obligations during the course of her probation supervision.”


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