Benton man fit for trial in the negligent deaths of his children

Staff Writer

A 31-year-old Benton man has been found competent to stand trial for the 2017 deaths of his two children.
Jonathan Welborn appeared before Saline County Judge Barbara Webb on Monday where the court heard the results of his competency hearing.
Welborn has been charged with two counts of negligent homicide, a class B felony, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a minor, a class D felony.

During a July 2017 court appearance, Saline County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rebecca Bush stated that Welborn, along with Alexander resident Brittany Hairston, arrived at a residence in the 16000 block of Arkansas 298 after a swimming trip June 28, 2017.
The adults allegedly left 2-year-old Sofia Welborn and 6-month-old Zane Welborn in a truck while they went inside the residence for at least half an hour.
Saline County Sheriff’s Office Detective Jason Ballard stated at that time the children were reportedly in car seats, but not clothed.

A witness at the scene said Welborn exited the residence without Hairston.
Ballard said Welborn was waiting for Hairston in the vehicle.
The witness also stated that he saw brake lights engage before the driver reversed the truck, crossing the highway, prior to quickly rolling down a hill.
"(The truck) was moving," the witness stated while describing the speed of the vehicle. The witness added that he could not see the face of the driver.
Ballard said there was no sign of braking prior to the vehicle coming to a rest in a nearby pond.
Also, the truck reportedly traveled through a barbed wire fence and struck a tree before entering the pond.
When deputies arrived at about 10 p.m., Welborn was standing near the pond. The vehicle was "completely submerged" in the body of water with the lights still turned on, according to an arrest report.
The children were located underwater inside the vehicle in car seats and did not have a pulse and were not breathing, according to an arrest report.
After receiving treatment from emergency personnel on the scene, the children were transported by helicopter to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock.
Ballard also stated that Welborn allegedly admitted to using methamphetamine prior to the incident. He was tested at the scene by a drug recognition expert.

It also was reported that Hairston was allegedly intoxicated at the time of the incident.
Hairston was sentenced in November to 72 months probation after pleading guilty to two counts of endangering the welfare of a minor. She was ordered to pay all fines and court costs along with receiving mental health counseling and parenting classes.
As part of her plea agreement, Hairston is required “to testify truthfully in the trial of Jonathan Welborn.”
Hairston’s probation was revoked and a bench warrant issued for her arrest June 21. According to court documents, Hairston repeatedly failed to report to her probation officer. A home visit occurred May 21 where reporting instructions were left for her, but Hairston again failed to report May 22.
In addition to the reporting failures, Hairston also owes supervision fees and court payments. Records show that she has made no payments since February.

Welborn remains in custody on a $100,000 bond. A pre-trial hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 9 with a jury trial scheduled for Dec. 6.

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