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Parents of Baby Left Alone in Car Seat for 8 Days Face Murder Charges

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Tracey Hermann (Peoria County SheriffÂ’s Office)

A central Illinois couple faces first-degree murder charges in the death of their 5-month-old baby, who was found unresponsive in a car seat that had been placed in a crib.

Both Tracey Hermann, 21, and James Sargent, 23, appeared Wednesday in Peoria County Circuit Court in the death of Benjamin Sargent.

The charges state the parents' actions or lack thereof, were "brutal and heinous . . . indicative of wanton cruelty," factors that could mean they face up to 100 years in prison if convicted.

The 5-month-old was dropped off at his parents' house on Feb. 4, strapped into his car seat. Eight days later, he was found in the same position, said Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons during a bond hearing for the parents.

"He died from starvation due to neglect from these two defendants, his parents," Lyons said. "It's the worst case of child neglect we have seen since the turn of this century."

Sargent said virtually nothing, during a 20-minute hearing before Peoria County Circuit Judge Glenn Collier. Hermann told Collier her attorney was in Hawaii so she requested a court-appointed lawyer.

Collier ordered the two held without bond pending a hearing Friday, when it is expected that Lyons will present more evidence as to why the two should not be released pending trial.

Peoria County Coroner Johnna Ingersoll said Wednesday the baby weighed 10 pounds when he was found by police. He was nearly eight pounds at birth, she said.

Reading from a prepared statement, Lyons said police found the infant sitting in his own waste, all the while strapped into the seat which was in a crib.

During the eight days the baby was strapped in the seat, both Hermann and Sargent were home, "playing video games, watching TV, feeding and caring for themselves," Lyons said.

Lawyers in the state's attorney's juvenile division have begun proceedings to permanently remove Hermann's 3-year-old daughter from the home. That child was staying with another family member but is now in the care of Department of Family and Children's Services.