Calling it "the most terrible thing I've seen in my life," Vigo County Sheriff Greg Ewing announced Wednesday that four people have been arrested in the starvation death of 9-year-old Cameron R. Hoopingarner.
The child weighed less than 15 pounds when he died, the sheriff said.
At 3:55 a.m. Tuesday, the Vigo County Sheriff's Department and other emergency personnel responded to a 911 call reporting the cardiac arrest of a child at 11321 E. Lewsader Ave. in northern Vigo County near Fontanet. Hoopingarner was taken to Union Hospital and later pronounced dead.
"A criminal investigation was conducted at the address," Ewing said at a news conference. "Arrest warrants and search warrants were issued and executed at 5:10 p.m" Wednesday.
Arrested were Chad Allen Kraemer, 33, Hubert A. Kraemer, 56, Robin Lee Kraemer, 53, and Sarah Beth Travioli, 30, all of the Lewsader Avenue address.
Chad Kraemer and Travioli were charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in death, a Level 1 felony; neglect of a dependent, a Level 3 felony; and failure to report child neglect, a Class B misdemeanor.
Hubert A. Kraemer and Robin Lee Kraemer, the child's guardians, were charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in death and neglect of a dependent.
All were in Vigo County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bond, no 10 percent allowed, and they are scheduled to appear at 1:30 p.m. today in Vigo County Superior Court 6.
Ewing said Hoopingarner, who was bedridden and never enrolled in school, had cerebral palsy and was blind. Hubert and Robin Kraemer had the child since he was 3 days old.
"I just wanted to say that in my 26 years in this office, the pictures that I saw of Cameron and his condition were terrible, beyond terrible," said Ewing, who mentioned that he has a 9-year-old child of his own.
"His cause of death was severe malnutrition, and the manner was homicide as ruled preliminarily by the coroner's office. He was 9 years old, and he weighed just under 15 pounds. Essentially, in my opinion, he was starved to death. And tonight we have brought these four individuals to justice."
Ewing said he was shocked when he first saw photos of Hoopingarner.
"We [officers] were all talking collectively among all of us ... and there's over 100 years if you combine all of our service, and we have never seen anything this terrible," he said.
Ewing said the Kraemers and Travioli were not biologically related to Cameron Hoopingarner. Lead detective Jason Fischer said all four were unemployed.
The sheriff said the arrests were made without resistance.
"We had been out there before, based on previous contact over the years, and we knew that they did possess firearms," Ewing said of the Kraemers, adding that he was unaware of Hoopingarner's presence at the house until Tuesday.
"Just as a precautionary measure, we did utilize the state police," he said.
Two other children — ages 5 and 3, belonging to Chad Kraemer and Travioli — were removed from the house by the Department of Child Services.
"It makes me mad," Ewing said. "It makes me mad that somebody could do this to a child, let alone a child that has physical handicaps and is blind, who was given to a guardian to take care of. And this is how he gets treated? This is what he deserves? To be starved to death? What kind of animals are they?"
David Hughes can be reached at 812-231-4224 or at email@example.com. Follow David on Twitter @ TribStarDavid.