Tyler Brown was home sick in late January when he heard a baby crying. After the cries continued, he left his room to find his roommate, January Neatherlin. He knew she ran a day care out of the Bend home, but he normally worked long hours during the day and hadn’t been around when children where there.
He went around the house on that January day but couldn’t find Neatherlin.
After realizing she wasn’t home, he went and found what he estimated was a 6- to 8-month-old child left alone in a portable crib in the closet, he said.
Brown was careful not to say anything about the incident to Neatherlin. Instead, he gathered evidence. A week after finding the child, he moved out. Just before leaving, he video-recorded himself walking around the house, showing he was the only adult in the home. Then he opened a closet and filmed a toddler in a crib that had a mattress on top to keep the child from climbing out. There was also a young boy who was left alone.
“I had to make sure I had an opportunity to get the proof of what she was doing,” Brown said.
Neatherlin may have been off on a routine: working out at High Desert Crossfit or tanning at Tan Republic, where months later police would arrest her.
Brown’s testimony and video evidence is involved in a case against Neatherlin, who has been indicted on 122 charges of first-degree criminal mischief, first-degree criminal mistreatment and recklessly endangering another person in the alleged abandonment of children as young as 6 months old at her illegal child care facility, Little Giggles Daycare.
Attempts to reach Neatherlin’s attorney, Matthew Baughman, were unsuccessful Monday.
Following Brown’s report, police set up surveillance. They saw parents drop their children off and then watched Neatherlin leave the house, court records show.
“In a matter of just 13 days, the defendant left multiple children alone at her residence, on several different dates, while she went about her life, working out and tanning,” the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office stated when objecting to a reduction in Neatherlin’s bail.
Neatherlin was arrested March 15 after police said she left seven children alone. On May 1, she was charged with eight new felonies relating to four new victims. She remains in the Deschutes County jail with bail set at $750,000. She has a plea hearing scheduled for May 30. Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel is seeking additional possible victims, he said.
In addition to allegedly abandoning the children, investigators believe Neatherlin drugged them with melatonin to get them to sleep, something Brown said he witnessed. Upon her arrest, children were taken to the hospital, and several parents reported to investigators that their children sustained injuries while at Neatherlin’s day care.
The case against Neatherlin was a long time in the making. According to court documents, investigations by the Bend Police Department and the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office found reports of this behavior dating back to 2014. In 2015, the Bend Police Department was investigating a case based on similar allegations. But police never conducted a search or made an arrest. That’s why Brown took the time to collect evidence, he said, even though it meant children being left unsupervised while he did it.
“I never said anything to her. I never questioned her; I never accused her, because I didn’t want her to change how she was doing everything because I wanted her to get in trouble,” Brown said.
Brown rented a room from Neatherlin at her home on Clairaway Avenue in southeast Bend starting in September. She was a friend of a friend of a friend, he said, but he worked so much he didn’t get to know her that well until January, when heavy snow kept them both in the house more. Over time, he started to hear things about her from friends: She was vindictive and would retaliate when challenged, they said. She had a history of lying and stealing. Then, Neatherlin started coming home and telling Brown about how she was lying to police, saying her ex-boyfriend had stolen expensive items from her when really he had purchased them, Brown said. He said he saw her go outside one night and break a window, and then report to police that her ex-boyfriend broke the window trying to get into the house.
Brown said the conduct scared him, but he didn’t have anywhere else to live, and Neatherlin would threaten to kick him out if he told anyone. Then, he noticed $1,500 missing from his room. He had recently taken out a loan to consolidate credit cards but noticed the stack of cash was light. So he propped his phone up in his closet and set it to record video. He then went to take a shower and caught Neatherlin on video coming into his room and stealing more cash, he said. In all, she stole $7,000, he said. On May 3, Brown filed a lawsuit against Neatherlin in small claims court seeking to recover the $7,000.
“She is by far the most evil, wicked, narcissistic woman I have ever met in my entire life,” Brown said. “She is a monster, I mean just evil.”
Neatherlin has a well-documented history of theft and deception. In 2007, she was convicted of felony theft in Malheur County. The next year she was convicted of five counts of identity theft in Deschutes County. Two years later, she was again convicted on two counts of theft and one count of identity theft.
“… In this case, the defendant’s scam was such that she put the lives of many children at risk,” the bail-reduction opposition document states, referring to the escalation of Neatherlin’s criminal history. “The charges currently pending before the court show the defendant’s complete lack of empathy for others.”
Brown said the week of living in the house while children were left alone was hard, and leaving on the final day as two kids remained in the house was even harder. But he heard about previous reports to law enforcement and the Department of Human Services — which he said she avoided “like the plague” — never amounted to anything.
“I knew in the long run that by doing what I did it was going to benefit these kids and save these kids’ lives, and it was going to make sure she was never around kids again,” Brown said.
— Reporter: 541-383-0376, firstname.lastname@example.org