1-year-old’s Drowning Death leads to Aggravated Child Abuse Arrest


CULLMAN – Jeffery Hugh Brown, 37, has been arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse in connection with the drowning death of 1-year-old Hoss Wayne Benham that occurred around 11 p.m. on Tuesday, March 11; an event that investigators are calling suspicious in nature.


“The Cullman County Sheriff's Office was notified by Cullman Regional Medical Center of a reported bathtub drowning of a 1-year-old child, Hoss Wayne Benham. The initial medical review indicated that the child's body had several external injuries that were suspicious in nature,” Cullman County Sheriff Mike Rainey stated in a release on Friday.


According to the release, Deputy Jed Thomas was dispatched to the hospital, however Benham had passed away before his arrival. Rainey stated that upon conducting an initial assessment from the medical staff and viewing the child 's injuries Deputy Thomas notified dispatch of the situation and a team of investigators responded to the hospital and to 17750 US Hwy 31 N. at Monk's Trailer Park where the drowning was alleged to have occurred.


“Cullman Co. District Attorney, Wilson Blaylock, was notified of the situation. He then gave authorization for an autopsy to be conducted at the Huntsville Department of Forensic Science on Thursday, March 13,” the release stated. A preliminary report of the cause of death has not been released at this time.


According to the report, Lead investigators, Bethany Shaddrix and Capt. Jon Montgomery conducted initial interviews with the child's mother; Crystal Ballenger, age 23, and her boyfriend, Jeffery Hugh Brown, age 37. Based upon those interviews and other physical evidence uncovered by investigators during the course of this investigation, Jeffrey Brown has been charged with Aggravated Child Abuse, a Class B felony. His bond has been set at $30,000.00 cash.


“This case is still very active and ongoing at this time and we are not at liberty to discuss details or specifics that could jeopardize our investigation. I want to commend all the officers and investigators for their hard work and dedication in uncovering the facts surrounding this investigation,” Rainey stated. “The Cullman Co. Sheriff's Office is working closely with the District Attorney's Office and the Dept. of Human Resources. We anticipate making further progress in this investigation in the near future. Child Abuse cases are difficult to work and especially those of which result in the death of a child.  As Sheriff, I am saddened by the death of this little boy and I want the community to know that we are praying for this child and those who loved him.”


CullmanSense will provide more information as details emerge.