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Benton County judge refuses plea agreement for father accused of co-sleeping with baby; jury trial set

by Tracy Neal | March 27, 2023 at 2:19 p.m.
Emily Heyns (left) and Vincent Heyns

BENTONVILLE -- Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green on Monday refused to accept a plea agreement for a man accused of causing his infant son's death while sleeping with him.

Vincent Heyns, 24, of Rogers is charged with manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a minor. He's accused of being under the influence of marijuana and co-sleeping with his 2-month-old son and causing his death.

Wilson Raines, deputy prosecutor, had reached an agreement with Janette McKinney, Heyns' attorney, to resolve the case.

Green rejected the agreement. Instead, she set a jury trial in Heyns' case to begin July 11.

Neither Green nor the attorneys discussed details of the agreement.

The judge earlier Monday did accept a plea agreement for Emily Heyns, the boy's mother.

Emily Heyns, 21, had been charged with manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a minor. She agreed to plead guilty to the endangering charge; prosecutors dismissed the manslaughter charge. She was placed on six years of state-supervised probation and ordered to be evaluated for alcohol and substance abuse at Ozark Guidance.

Raines told the judge the manslaughter charge was dismissed against Emily Heyns because the baby was in the possession and control of her husband.

Benton County Sheriff's Office deputies received a call about a non-responsive child at 12671 Scenic Drive in Rogers about 2 p.m. Nov. 1, according to court documents.

Emily Heyns told Green she and her husband took their son trick-or-treating and returned home and consumed marijuana. "He ended up falling to sleep with our baby in bed," she said about her husband.

Green described Emily Heyns' agreement as lenient, but said she understood it was the only charge that could be filed against her.

Green took a different approach when it came to Vincent Heyns' plea agreement. She described the agreement as lenient, especially since it was the couple's second child to die under similar circumstances.

On July 13, 2021, deputies were called to the same address to investigate the death of a 4-month-old child. An investigation revealed the Heynses were both sleeping with the child, who was in Vincent Heyns' arms when he died, according to the affidavit.

Green said the child's mother got a break and her husband is the one she said was sleeping with their child.

Raines said the autopsy results returned as inconclusive.

McKinney said the couple's first child died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and the parents were not to blame.

In the latest case, Emily Heyns said she, her grandfather Robert Rose and Vincent Heyns were in the home when they realized the child wasn't breathing, according to the probable cause affidavit. She said the baby was lying in their bed in her husband's arms, according to the affidavit.

During interviews, the couple said they had been smoking marijuana after authorities noticed marijuana paraphernalia in the house, according to the affidavit.

Vincent Heyns said the child was lying on his chest. He said he woke up and the baby "shimmied" down his chest and his face was pressed into the right side of his chest.

"I think I squished him," Vincent Heyns said, according to the affidavit.

Rose said when he went to bed, the couple was still awake and the baby was in the bedroom. He said he woke up at 2 p.m. and knocked on the bedroom door because he hadn't heard the baby, according to the affidavit.

He said they uncovered the child, and he was fine. Rose then left the room and a few minutes later, Emily Heyns came screaming for him saying, "Pa Pa, he's gone, we lost another one," according to the affidavit. Rose said he told Vincent Heyns to call 911, and he started CPR.

Green noted the statement about losing another one and said she could not accept Vincent Heyns' plea agreement. "I'm not going to accept it in all good conscience," she said.

Green told Emily Heyns there need to be enhancements in the law if a person allows more than one child to be killed.

Vincent Heyns remained in the Benton County Jail on Monday on $100,000 bond. Emily Heyns was to be released from jail Monday.

Print Headline: Judge refuses plea agreement for father in co-sleeping case


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