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Bond set for three in neglect case

Neglect charges have been filed against three people after the death of a 64-year-old Monticello man on Monday.

Charged with the Class 2 felony of criminal abuse or neglect of an elderly person are Mason Brown, 34; and Christie Brown, 61, both of Monticello; and Justin Tatman, 37, of Bement.

Police were called to the home of Christie Brown and her brother, Ron Blankenship, after Mr. Blankenship died at about 7 p.m. Monday in his house located in the 300 block of West Monroe Street. Monticello Police Chief John Carter called conditions in the home “deplorable,” a term repeated by Piatt County State's Attorney Dana Rhoades at initial court appearances for the suspects Friday afternoon.

Mason Brown and Christie Brown face four charges: Criminal abuse or neglect of an elderly person, criminal abuse or neglect of a disabled person, and two charges of aggravated cruelty to a companion animal.

Authorities said an adopted daughter of one of the suspects who has Down Syndrome into protective custody. Police say three dogs and three cats were also taken from the home.

Bond was set at $50,000 for Mason Brown, who is Blankenship's nephew; and $30,000 for Christie Brown, the deceased's sister.

Tatman has been charged with two counts of criminal abuse or neglect, with bond set at $50,000.

Mason Brown and Christie Brown both lived with Blankenship. Tatman is a Bement resident, but police say he was in the home when police responded on Monday, and presented paperwork claiming he and Mason Brown were powers of attorney for Blankenship.

Rhoades had asked for bond to be set at $100,000 in each case, noting that there are also ongoing investigations into financial exploitation regarding the suspects.

Each Class 2 felony neglect charge is punishable by prison terms of three to 14 years and a fine of up to $25,000.

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Three Monticello residents have been arrested by police on suspicion of criminal abuse of an elderly person with a disability in relation to the death of a 64-year-old man who was living with them.

An adopted daughter of one of the suspects who has Down's Syndrome was also taken into adult protective services, according to police.

In addition, four dogs and three cats were taken from the residence located in the 300 block of West Monroe Street in Monticello, with one of them needing to be euthanized due to poor health.

Family members of Ronald E. Blankenship reported his death at about 7 p.m. Monday. City of Monticello, Piatt County Sheriff, Illinois State and Task Force 6 officers reported to the scene, where they found “deplorable” conditions, according to Monticello Police Chief John Carter.

“There were three garbage bags filled with soiled adult diapers at the foot of his (Blankenship's) bed,” said Carter. “The dogs – two were in a bedroom, two were in a porched area that appeared to have never been cleaned up.”

Mason Brown, 34, a nephew of Blankenship, claimed on Facebook prior to police being notified that his uncle had been murdered at and that “some hours later, two masked gunmen arrived at my home in what I believe was an attempt to kill the rest of my family.”

Carter said preliminary autopsy reports do not indicate foul play, but that Blankenship had severe bilateral bronchopneumonia, a closed off larynx, and suffered from diabetes to the point where a finger was rotting. He added there were “no external injuries that would have caused death.”

He also said there were no signs of gunman at the home later on, noting that when police responded the grass at the home showed no signs of disturbance.

Brown, Christie Brown, 61 and Blankenship's sister; and Justin Tatman, 37 and the deceased's power of attorney, were all arrested Thursday on preliminary charges of criminal abuse of an elderly person with a disability. Mason Brown also faces charges of animal cruelty and resisting/obstructing a police office, and Christie Brown also with animal cruelty.

The three are in Piatt County jail awaiting a preliminary court appearance this afternoon.

While the arrests were being made, Monticello High School and Washington Elementary School went on soft lockdown for about 20 minutes since the Monroe Street residence is located close to those buildings.

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Bond set for three in neglect case


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