Hocking County – The couple accused of the death of a 2-year-old will spend 35 combined years in prison.
The Sheriff’s Office investigation began on Friday, January 8, 2021 when a 9-1-1 call was placed by Neel stating that the two-year-old was not breathing. Through the course of the investigation, Detectives and Prosecutors were able to determine that the couple’s original story of how the child’s injuries occurred was not factual. They learned the initial story given was fabricated in an attempt to hide that the injuries were actually the result of an assault.
The child was taken to Children’s Hospital where she died two days later. The Coroners report said that the child had blunt force to the head and neck causing her death.
The two people were where charged and found guilty where Austin L. Starkey, 25 of Logan, and Destiny D. Neel, 27 of Logan. Starkey is the father of the deceased, and Neel is the live-in girlfriend of Starkey.
Austin L. Starkey was found guilty and convicted of permitting child abuse and tampering with physical evidence. He was sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison. The original charges of Murder and felonious assault were dismissed in his case.
Destiny D. Neel, 27 was convicted of aggravated murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Prosecuting Attorney Black stated: “These are tragic circumstances. Nothing is more unconscionable than the murder of a child, made especially horrific by it being perpetrated by the victim’s caregivers. The brutality involved makes this case particularly difficult to stomach. It also demonstrates just how necessary it is to be absolutely tireless in our pursuit of justice for Arianna. I am confident that the determined work of the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office’s detectives and investigators has built a strong case and that it will lead to an equally strong result. We have every intention of using every resource available in that pursuit.”
Sheriff North stated: “Cases involving the murder of innocent children, especially when they are so young, are among the most heinous cases that law enforcement officers are ever tasked with investigating. I would like to thank Prosecutor Black and his assistant prosecutors and the detectives who spent countless hours on this case to make sure it was investigated thoroughly so justice could be sought on behalf of Arianna.”