Earlier this month a Texas County coroner’s jury found Jennifer Bagley was negligent in the drowning deaths of her two sons last summer and today she was charged with involuntary manslaughter for their deaths.
Seven year-old Jesse James Bagley and his brother, four-year-old Wyatt Earp Bagley, were found dead in the Big Piney River near Licking that runs behind the family’s former rented home.
In testimony presented at the coroner’s inquest it was revealed that Jennifer Bagley told investigators that she was making a beaded key chain for her boyfriend in the kitchen, which is a separate building from the main house, while the kids played outside the afternoon her sons went missing.
She also told investigators that she and her father had been arguing about the condition of the house that day. Jennifer Bagley told cops that her daughter, 3 year-old Belle Starr, came into the house soaking wet and told the grown ups, Jennifer Bagley and the children’s grandparents, that her brothers were in the river.
Searchers combed the area around the house and the river for over twelve hours before the boys were located by a helicopter about 7 a.m. in the river.
Texas County Prosecutor Michael Anderson says that there was confusion as to just how long it took Jennifer Bagley to begin looking for her son’s. He says, “The search for the boys didn’t start until it at least 20-30 minutes or up to an hour after her daughter told her the boy’s were in the river, and it was between 1 and 2 hours before she called 9-1-1 for help.”
One of the investigators testified that Jennifer Bagley talked “matter-of-factly” when boys were gone. Said she had bad feeling like that time she had the one when she found out boyfriend had cheated on her.
Authorities were familiar with Jennifer Bagley and her children as there had been at least 5 hot line calls made about the children. The calls started in 2005 saying that the children were living in filth and were covered in bug bites, and one was recent as last year Belle Starr was not being fed. A neighbor told cops that the Bagley children came to his house at least two times, and his house is at least 3/10th’s of a mile from where they lived. That same neighbor told investigators that he heard a “different” kind of scream coming from near the river the day the boys went missing.
After the deaths of her brothers, Belle Starr was placed in protective custody by The Department of Social Services. She is now living with a foster family.
As authorities fanned out Tuesday evening, March 23, 2010, to find Jennifer Bagley, they found her incarcerated in the Phelps County Jail, where she had been held since Monday on a charge of failure to appear for a probation review, according to online court records. A probation status hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. April 5. The state has not filed a motion to revoke it, according to records.
Jennifer Bagley bond on the two Texas County counts is set at $250,000.
Texas County Prosecutor Michael Anderson said Tuesday afternoon he plans to set a preliminary hearing date promptly on the involuntary manslaughter counts.
At the coroner’s inquiry, jurors heard that the boys were playing under the supervision of their mother before they went missing and drowning. Authorities testified that Jennifer Bagley appeared “indifferent” and “did not show a lot of concern” as the search that eventually involved as many as 300 people got under way.