A Tulsa man has been charged with child neglect after he allegedly left his two children unsupervised for more than four hours, at which time the children gained access to his parked vehicle where they were later found deceased.
According to a Criminal Complaint, Dustin Lee Dennis, 31, fell asleep on June 13, 2020, only to wake up and discover his children deceased in the backseat of his pick-up truck. The crime occurred within the boundaries of the Creek Nation reservation. His three-year-old son and four-year-old daughter are Cherokee citizens.
“Following the Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt, the Tulsa County District Attorney dismissed state charges against Dustin Dennis for lack of jurisdiction. District Attorney Kunzweiler communicated to my office his intent to do so, and we immediately prepared to receive and review the case file,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. “Upon review of the facts and evidence by the FBI and federal prosecutors, we filed a Complaint alleging felony child neglect by Mr. Dennis. Our review of the facts and evidence is ongoing, and we will determine whether other violations of federal law should be presented to a federal grand jury for their consideration.
This is a tragic set of facts. Our mission now is to pursue justice for the two child victims by holding Mr. Dennis accountable in a court of law. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has a team of Victim Coordinators who will work with the mother of the deceased children as this case proceeds through the federal system.”
During the investigation and review of a neighbor’s surveillance video, investigators discovered that Dennis returned home at 12:55 a.m. on June 13. Surveillance video next shows Dennis leaving his residence alone at approximately noon for 11 minutes during which time Dennis stated he drove to a QuikTrip. When Dennis returned home from the convenience store, he stated that he fell asleep. During this time, surveillance footage allegedly shows the two children trying to get into Dennis’ truck at 1:22 p.m. when the vehicle’s alarm went off. They attempted a second time at 1:29 p.m. and successfully gained access to the truck. The video captures Dennis exiting his apartment and searching for his children approximately four hours later, at 5:32 p.m. Within minutes he discovered his children deceased in the truck.
The surveillance video contradicts several initial statements Dennis made to officers who first arrived on the scene. Dennis allegedly claimed that he had arrived home at 10 pm the night before, rather than after midnight as shown in the video. He also claimed that the children were with him when he went to QuikTrip, but video showed he was alone.
A Criminal Complaint is a temporary charge alleging a violation of law. For the case to proceed to trial, the United States must present the charge to a federal Grand Jury within 30 days. Once a Grand Jury returns an Indictment, a defendant has a right to a jury trial at which the United States would have the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The FBI and Tulsa Police Department are the investigative agencies. Assistant U.S. Attorney Shannon Cozzoni is prosecuting the case.