2:49 PM PDT, July 15, 2021
An Oklahoma father has pleaded guilty to felony child neglect over the deaths last year of his two young children, who perished in the back of his broiling truck while he napped for more than five hours, authorities said.
Dustin Dennis pleaded guilty Tuesday in connection with the June 2020 deaths of 4-year-old daughter Teagan and 3-year-old Ryan, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Oklahoma.
“I failed my children,” Dennis said in court. “I didn’t do what I was supposed to do, and because of that they died,” the Tulsa World reported.
As part of a plea agreement, Dennis acknowledged that while caring for his children, he stayed up late on a cocaine-fueled binge of playing his video games. After going to a local store about noon, the 32-year-old said he came home and took a nap. He slept for more than five hours, leaving his children unsupervised, prosecutors said.
The temperatures were in the 90s. Dennis found his children in the back of his truck. They had died of heat exposure, authorities said. The two had clambered into the vehicle and were unable to get out, authorities said.
The father had initially been charged by state prosecutors with second-degree murder. But a subsequent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in July 2020 determined that large segments eastern Oklahoma were still tribal land and that many Native Americans were outside the state’s jurisdiction. The children were members of the Cherokee Nation.
Dennis faces up to six years in federal prison and five years of supervision after his release. His sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 10.