CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — A Northeast Ohio family is hurt and frustrated as the man indicted in a teen's drowning death prepares for his day in court.
On July 1, 2017, officials reported 15-year-old Jalen Wise drowned in Tinker's Creek at the Bedford Reservation after he was reported missing to Cleveland Metropark investigators.
His body was found three days later by a couple that was horseback riding.
43-year-old Daniel Baldwin was charged with involuntary manslaughter and six counts of child endangerment.
Wise’s sister, Alana Wise, says she assumed Jalen was out playing in the neighborhood as he normally did on a summer day. Later she says she was told her brother was with Baldwin at Tinker’s Creek.
The Wise family was confused.
“Why was he at Tinker's Creek?” Alana asked. “He's petrified of water. He doesn't know how to swim.”
She says the creek is about 30 minutes from their home and Baldwin was a stranger who did not have permission from her mother to take Jalen.
“Everyone’s hurt. We’re demanding answers. We don’t know why this happened, what led to this,” Alana said. “All we know is that Jalen had a whole life to live and he could not live to see that life.”
Wise’s case was closed in 2017. It was reopened in July 2019, according to Kimberly Brown, president of the Black Women Commission of Cuyahoga County.
“We decided to like I said take the case and conduct our own investigation to make sure that we can at least give the family some type of leadway,” Brown said.
In December 2019, Baldwin pleaded not guilty in court during an arraignment hearing. His bond was set at $50,000.
“All you gotta do is come up with 10 percent which in fact is $5,000. So are you telling me this kid's life is only worth five grand?” Brown told News 5. “It's a slap in the face. It's disrespectful.”
Baldwin is due back in court on Monday for a pre-trial.
News 5 reached out to Baldwin’s attorney, Patrick Leary, for comment. Leary initially declined to comment. An hour later he sent the following statement:
We believe it is an absolute tragedy that the Wise family lost their son in such a tragic accident at Tinker’s Creek in July of 2017. The Metroparks conducted a thorough investigation at that time and determined that no charges should be brought. Now, two and a half years later, Daniel Baldwin has been indicted and we believe it is a total miscarriage of justice that he is charged in any manner for the boy’s accidental death. Sometimes an accident is just that, an accident. It does not always equate to criminal culpability.