published Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

2 charged with child neglect after toddler drowns in Bledsoe County home pool

Two Bledsoe County, Tenn., residents face charges of aggravated child neglect and neglect in the June 6 drowning of a toddler left unattended in a home pool, authorities say.

The toddler's uncle, Dustin Sweeney, and a woman authorities describe as Sweeney's girlfriend, Samantha Grenier, left 22-month-old Hailey Lashay Freeman-Sweeney and Grenier's 4-year-old daughter unattended, authorities said. The younger child drowned.

"The case is based on [witness] statements that the children were left unattended in the pool," 12th Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Jim Pope said Monday.

The death pushes the charges against Sweeney and Grenier, both 22, up to aggravated child neglect in the 22-month-old's case, Pope said. Both are charged with child neglect in connection with the 4-year-old, and Grenier also is charged with filing a false report, Pope said.

Sweeney and Grenier are scheduled for arraignment Sept. 28 in Bledsoe County Circuit Court, he said.

Bledsoe County investigator Ricky Seals said authorities believe Sweeney and Grenier walked away from the pool for a time while the girls were playing. When they returned, the younger child was unresponsive in the water and the other child still was playing, Seals said.

The pool, an inflatable that can hold up to 18 inches of water, was at the home of one of the younger child's grandparents, Seals said. He said Sweeney and Grenier were responsible for watching the children. There was no evidence that Sweeney and Grenier had been drinking, he said.

When the children were found and emergency personnel summoned, a couple of Emergency Services personnel who lived minutes away responded to try to revive the little girl, Seals said. They continued to work on the child at Erlanger Bledsoe hospital in Pikeville but were unable to revive her, he said.

"I determined that neglect was involved," Seals said. He said there were inconsistencies in the timeline Grenier gave investigators that resulted in the false report charge.

Sweeney and Grenier are being held on $25,000 bond each, officials said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at 423-757-6569 or

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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macropetala8 said...

Sad story. Preventable tragedy. Why do people still take such chances when we've all be warned repeatedly to not leave young children unattended? Not even for a second?

September 13, 2011 at 9:17 a.m.
mattgrenier06 said...

Ya people make mistakes!! I'm sure everyone can look back at a time, and say OMG if something else would have happened it could have been so much worse?. I know everyone has, well this is one of those times. This is a redneck ridden town, county and area. The intelligence level here is very low, and that includes all of the officials there. You can clearly see this was an accident. A tragic one at that. But to try and ruin two young peoples lives over it is MUCH over the line! Don't worry good lawyers will be brought in, and a change of venue will have to be asked for. This town an area doesn't have the brain capacity to even think and make a respectable decision on this case. It's a shame its had to be drawn out, and money has got to be spent, and a lot of it. But hey that's all these people want anyways right? Its pathetic. There is other ways to go about this. I wish nothing but bad things against anyone who has anything to do with this case. Cause bottom line this was an accident. I just wish these backwoods rednecks could understand that. But in area's like that there isn't much going on so thier little minds dwell on little drama like this, and come up with the most crazy and ludacris ideas. I hope after this, anyone in connection with thier arrest is fired. But hey that's my two cents, and in this world it ussually means sh**!!!

September 15, 2011 at 10:28 a.m.
brother25 said...

I don't think these two people should see the light of day ever again. There is no good explanations for what happen that day. There should of been consistent supervision when you have a child in or near water. This tragic day was 100% preventable. That little girl did not deserve to be treated with such neglect. I am praying that justice and peace will come to this poor little girl and her family. Love ya sis.. prayers going up everyday!

September 15, 2011 at 11:16 p.m.
theotherside said...

All I can say on this is what a sad story it is but I think they the people being charged are not the guilty ones it was a accident yes a horrible one i know and understand that but it does happen and i know more of the story then you people may think i do notgee the like a day the girl has a child and that little girl should have the right to be raised by her mommy too I agree with mattgrenier06 i dont know either one of you so i have no reason to take sides on this part but i feel like they are wanting to blame someone and no matter who it is just someone and think about all the people that is getting hurt in the process of this not just over the lose of this beautiful baby girl but now the family has to deal with this too when it was a accident and my prayers go out to the mother and father of the little girl but my prayers also go out to the family of her too and that means the ones being wrongful accused of this crime (what i think) so just think about what you have done in the past and answer this can you honestly say that something you done could of never lead to something like this cause if you think not your wrong when there is a child present your eyes have to be on them 24/7 even as they sleep to know that nothing is going to happen so dont be so quick to judge this is a horrible tragic accident and hope the court see it the same way

October 15, 2011 at 3:03 a.m.
yankeegurl said...

I am Hhave been with dustin sweeneys dad for 19 yrs. There were four ppl. who waLked away from my grandaughter that day. She was left in a pool with no floatation devices while they claim they walked away to give someone a "cig". This was an act of neglect who leaves a 22 month old in a pool that was close to three foot deep? I have A pic of the pool.Imagine knowing four adults and one 22 month old. Please understand they put her in the pool and walked away that is not an accident she didnT fall in . All four adults who walked away should be held responsble.they have treated her mother terribly without so much as an apology. Tommorrow is court and good willing the TRUTH will come out.Dustin is an aspiring career criminal with a known drug record and should have been drug tested.allene songer the great grandmother responsible for hailey should be charged for trying to go home and let water out of the pool. they enable dustins criminal activity by always getting him out of trouble.they cover up the drug abuse help him pass drug test hide him from authorities the list goes on and on.

October 16, 2011 at 10:37 p.m.
mattgrenier06 said...

Yankee gurl I think your a little off your rocker. It was an accident, and they do happen. No matter what someones past is, you shouldn't write them off cause people change. First off the only person who had responsibillity for this child was the mother and the father, whom was present I believe, but if these for should be charge so shoudl the mother for not being thier. I think this whole situation has been blown way out of proportion. It's really a tragic story, it really is, an condolences to everyone hurt, but bottom line it was an accient, and accidents do occur on a daily basis. We just need to move on and accept it. And people puttin thier two cents in without knowing the full dynamics of the situation, can keep thier comments to thierself because there not needed.

October 19, 2011 at 12:54 p.m.
WaylandStafford said...

A small message to Matt. You would be wrong in your assumption that Hailey's mother or father was present. They were still at their apartment in Tellahoma. Haileys, if we are going to talk about this at least have enough back bone to use her name, uncle Dustin Sweenty and grandmother Felica Sweeny were the ones that came to Tellahoma and picked Haley up. Furthermore I have not seen you at any of the trials or at the funeral for that matter. Yes you were right when you said that this was an accident, but most neglect cases are not intentional. Hailey had a birth defect with her left optic nerve when she was bornt hat threw off her equillibrium and she was an infant. Sammy and Dustin were in charger of her, and left her unattended in a pool with eightenn inches of water, when in realtiy Hailey was only thirty six inches tall, to deliver a smoke to someone. That right there is enough to ensure that these two shouold go to jail. Then they lied on the poilice statement trying to cover their tracks. This is another fishy action, not to mention that someof the water was let out of the pool, and was taken down the very next day. Allene or Joseph Songer has not even attempted to contact the mother, Ariel Freeman, and apologize or even send their condoloences. The family parade around their small town community and uses the tragic death of Hailey to get attention. Then on top of everything threathen Ariel, the mother, with phone calls and driving past her house and blowing the horn. I take it that you are related to Sammie, well there is probably more to her than you know I have messages printed and saved on facebook where she shows sighns of ill temperment and sending threats out to Ariel. I would say that is strange behavior as well. I am going to ask that Chattanooga Times Free Press remove this article,becuase most of the people getting on here is just doing so becuase they want something to talk about. A babys life was taken away and that is very real, all of this drama and bantering is very petty and i hope that all of you get a life. Leave well enough alone, if this has nothing to do with you then go on somewhere.

October 21, 2011 at 10:20 a.m.
WaylandStafford said...

Exscuse me I made a mistake. Hailey was thirty inches and the pool was anywhere from 18-24 inches deep, that ia the offical documentation on the Autopsy report. So just imagine if the pool was 24inches deep the water would have come up to her mouth. She was a toddler, had no flotation devices, her balance was off, and was left un attended. Now ask yourself, could this have been prevented? Yes it could have been. This may not have been intentional, but it was neglect all the same.

October 21, 2011 at 10:48 a.m.
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