Complaint paints picture of drug use, neglect to daughter and dog
Parents allegedly knew their daughter showed “no fear of water”
by Gary King
BURNETT COUNTY - A complaint filed by the Burnett County district attorney paints a picture of drug use and parents who didn’t seem alarmed that their three-year-old daughter, Reena Mae Williams, had been found wandering a half mile from their village of Danbury home, barefoot and alone.
The girl, after being returned to her home and father after being found wandering on the afternoon of Aug. 14, ended up drowning in a canal near her home within hours.
Jenna Danish, 33, and Thomas William Jr., 42, face charges of Child neglect resulting in death. They could each receive up to 25 years in prison if found guilty.
The couple turned themselves into authorities around noon on Sunday,Sept. 23, according to a family friend.
In a criminal complaint filed Friday, Sept. 21, authorities claim drugs, mostly synthetic marijuana, were found at the family’s home, located on 3rd Ave. South. The home is surrounded by water, bordered on one side by a canal with a steep bank located less than 25 yards from the house - with no fences or guard rails present. Williams was caretaker of a dam on the premises.
One witness told authorities the residence presented a "particularly hazardous and dangerous place” to raise a three-year-old child, especially since there was no fence to keep her away from the water. Reena was known to go near or even into the water. On or about April 19, 2012, according to the criminal complaint, she dove into the water behind the house to retrieve her fishing pole which she had accidentally dropped. Her father dove in to rescue her and subsequently remarked that Reena showed no fear of the water.
One witness, who said she had known the couple for a few months, said the couple didn’t pay close attention to their child and were negligent parents - saying Reena was “dirty and neglected,” and that it was not uncommon for the child to wander off and go down to the lower dam.
That witness also claimed Williams, the father, was a “daily user of marijuana and other mind-altering substances.”
On the day of Reena’s disappearance and subsequent drowning, a woman in downtown Danbury saw Reena walking alone, a half mile from her home, at approximately 5 p.m. She approached Reena, who was with a dog the girl said belonged to “Billy Bob” (a friend of the family) and added that she was looking for her mother.
Just previous to that a man near the ball field, approximately 1.5 miles from the Williams-Danish home, saw Reena and told authorities he had also seen the girl at least two other times at that location in the previous month without any adult supervision.
Father seemed incoherent
The woman who found Reena downtown at about 5 p.m. drove the girl and the dog to the girl's home. She told authorities that when she arrived she called out but no one was around. When she opened the door further and yelled into the house there was no answer. At 5:06 p.m. she used her cell phone to call "Billy Bob's" phone but there was no answer.
Ultimately, she said, the girl's father walked up from the dam. When the woman told the father she had found Reena all the way up on Third Ave., he did not seem concerned and acted as if it was ‘no big deal,” in the woman’s words. The father, she said, seemed incoherent and seemed to in fact ignore what she was saying.
Dog “soaking wet
After returning home the woman said a neighbor informed her that a little girl was missing. She reassured the neighbor that she had already found the child - but the neighbor said ‘no, she’s missing again.’ The woman then went looking for Reena again and saw Reena’s mother standing in the road talking on a cell phone, obviously not looking for her daughter. When she arrived at the parent’s home, she said a dog named “Taz” (a dog belonging to a neighborhood resident) to was soaking wet. Neither parent seemed upset and neither were looking for Reena, she said.
Another witness - a man - said he and Reena’s father had been smoking synthetic marijuana minutes before Reena disappeared.
At 8:15 p.m., on Aug. 14, a sheriff’s deputy arrived at the home to assist in a large-scale search effort which included area law enforcement and hundreds of volunteers from the community.
After dark, the deputy led a search of the home and found drug paraphernalia, including smoking devices, real and synthetic marijuana including a vial labeled “Smokin’ Dragon 7x Ultra.”
Authorities also noticed a sheet had been hung over the west-facing windows in the kitchen - those facing the canal and canal bank - completely blocking the view of the canal from inside the house.
Found in canal
At approximately 4:48 p.m. the next day, Aug. 15, Reena was found drowned in the nearby canal in an area, the complaint states “that would have been plainly visible form the west facing kitchen windows of the house, had they not been obscured by sheets.
In more searching of the premises authorities found a dog “Coya” on the couple’s property who had been severely neglected. The toenails on each foot were extremely long causing the foot to flatten and the toes to curl up. It was covered in fleas and had an extreme loss of hair to the back half of its body. There were open sores on rear legs, underbelly and back. The dog was lethargic.