A Denison mother showed very little emotion Wednesday as Judge Jim Fallon sentenced her to 50 years in prison for the starvation death of her 12-year-old son, Christopher Arndt.
Jennifer Anne Arndt, 36, pleaded guilty, back in March, to one count of first degree felony injury to a child in Fallon’s 15th state District Court.
Previously published reports show the case against Arndt and her husband, John Howard Arndt, began back on Oct. 12, 2018 when Denison Police received a call from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services regarding a 12-year-old boy who was brought to Texoma Medical Center with significant injuries and malnutrition. The family lived in the 1300 block of West Woodard Street.
The child was treated locally, but transported to Children’s Medical Center Dallas, where he was pronounced dead on Oct. 17.
In court on Wednesday, Jennifer Arndt cried as her father testified that he had not seen his grandson in several months when he saw him just three weeks before the boy died. The man testified that he took one look at the boy and told both parents that they needed to take the boy to the doctor the very next day.
“Of course, I didn’t follow up on,” he said.
The grandfather testified that he told his daughter that she could leave her husband and leave Christopher with the husband and she and the girls could come back home to live with him and his wife.
He said Christopher was no longer welcomed to visit their home because he would destroy things when he was there.
He said his daughter never took him up on that or mentioned that they were having any trouble feeding their four children.
Jennifer Arndt took the stand on her own behalf and told Fallon that she began withholding food from Christopher in March of 2018 as a means of punishment. She noticed that while it was a successful deterrent to his behavior at first, it did not remain so.
She said her son, who had been diagnosed with childhood onset of a schizophrenia, threatened to killer and his three sisters.
“He would take feces and rub it on the walls,” she said noting that he would also urinate on the floor and drink out of the toilets. She said they looked into residential treatment facilities for the child and couldn’t get him in because they didn’t take private insurance or the amount of money that they wanted was too much for their budget.
So, she said, she was trying to deal with it alone while her husband worked two jobs and was rarely ever home.
First Assistant Grayson County District Attorney asked her when her husband had time to deal with the children when he was working from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. many days of the week at two jobs. She told Ashmore that she didn’t leave because she didn’t want a divorce in the family and she didn’t want to break the family up.
Jennifer Arndt said she didn’t really realize how badly the lack of food was damaging her son’s body.
“I felt, in my mind, that he would catch on and stop acting the way he was acting,” she said.
On the day that she finally took him to the hospital, she testified, she waited for her husband to get off work and for her to take the three girls to their grandparents before she took the boy to the doctor even though he had suffered a seizure and lost consciousness.
When pressed on why she didn’t immediately take the child to the doctor, she finally admitted she was worried what would happen to her if the authorities saw the condition the boy was in.
“I do feel horrible. I am ashamed,” she said at one point during the interview.
“I have lost my whole world,” she told the judge and added, “I have dreams about my son. I see him all over the jail. He comes to me.”
Fallon said he felt for her plight, but he could’t look past the very real evidence on her son’s body that he was tortured for weeks if not months.
Arndt’s attorney Rick Dunn said his client waved her right to appeal the case when she took the plea. She will have to serve 25 years before she is even eligible for parole. Dunn said in all of the years that he has been practicing law, this case has been one of the worst he has ever defended.
Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Nathan Young handled the case for the prosecution.
“I have had the opportunity to try or co try several different murder cases but this one by far is the most heinous crime or act that I have seen,” Young said. He pointed to previous testimony in the case where the medical examiner said the child had been deprived of food for several months if not a year.
“When you are dealing with the systematic starvation of someone, especially a child who the parents have a duty to protect and that kind of thing — when you see that and it is going on for months and months — it’s torture is what it is,” Young said.
Grayson County Judicial Records show that John Arndt is set to enter a plea in the case on July 12 in the 59th state District Court.