A former Bentonville school bus driver and her husband were in court Monday for the child abuse case against them. The couple is accused of imprisoning their children without much food or water, to the point where one responding officer said the children “looked like they came from a Holocaust concentration camp.”
Between the two of them, James and Jenefer Ogborn, of Bella Vista, face charges of endangering the welfare of a minor, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and third-degree battery, following their arrest in August. They appeared in Benton County Circuit Court this week for a pretrial hearing to determine what evidence could be used in the case.
Another pretrial hearing was set for Feb. 13, 2014. The couple’s trial is scheduled to begin April 29, said Benton County prosecutor Van Stone.
Soon after their arrest, they were released from the Benton County Jail by a judge without bond, according to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. The Ogborns pleaded not guilty in September to all charges against them, Stone said. Not-guilty pleas are common at arraignments to allow a case to proceed in the legal system.
Bella Vista police responded Aug. 9 to a home in reference to a possible child abuse call. When officers arrived, they spoke with a child at the residence, who told police his mom, Janefer Ogborn, had hit and kicked him during an altercation. The child also told police the mom “told me she hated me and wanted to put my head through the wall, and would break me in half,” according to a probable cause affidavit in Benton County Circuit Court.
Janefer Ogborn later resigned from her job as a bus driver for the Bentonville School District, a district spokesperson told 5NEWS.
Police said the children “were very thin and extremely pale-skinned,” also noting that their hair was thin and eyes sunken in.
“They looked a lot smaller size way than a child of that age should be and the color of their skin and their appearance where of children that were malnourished,” said Captain Tim Cook of the Bella Vista Police Department.
“The children were complaining of being hungry and thirsty,” the affidavit states. “Their skin was also pale and ashy. You could see the veins in their necks and bones sticking out.”
Three children at the home told police they often were forced to stand for long periods of time, were only allowed to use the bathroom four times a day and were allowed two Dixie cups of water a day with meals, according to the affidavit.
The children also said they were forced to sleep on the floor. If they tried to sneak into their beds during the night, they were yelled at and forced to stand for long periods of time as punishment, the affidavit states.
The children said they were locked in their rooms and watched by video camera because they “steal food,” police said.
When the couple arrived home, Janefer Ogborn denied hitting any of the children, saying instead that she grabbed his cheek when he was not cooperating. Police asked to see the camera footage of the children’s rooms, but the Ogborns said the cameras were not functioning, the affidavit states.
Police seized the children from the home and placed the Ogborn couple under arrest, according to the affidavit.