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Arnett child abuse cases advance to circuit court

MURRAY – After waiving presentation of their cases to the grand jury last month, allowing them to advance to circuit court without indictments, the Murray couple facing first-degree criminal child abuse charges for, among other things, failing to provide adequate nourishment to two children placed in their care make their first appearances before Calloway Circuit Judge Andrea Moore this month.

Samantha Arnett, 36, was arraigned in Calloway Circuit Court today; however, her co-defendant, Robert Arnett, 44, will not be arraigned until later this month.

Today, Moore re-appointed Department of Public Advocacy Murray Trial Office Directing Attorney Cheri Riedel – who represented Samantha in district court – to represent her in the circuit court proceedings. A discovery order was entered, and because Robert’s arraignment is two weeks away, Samantha’s case was set for a status hearing on Aug. 19 at 8:30 a.m.

Both defendants, according to the charging documents, are alleged to have intentionally abused the children or allowed them to be abused, causing torture or cruel punishment, beginning in May 2019, when the children were placed with the Arnetts – their aunt and uncle – after their parents lost custodial rights. Both have been charged with two counts (one for each child) of first-degree criminal abuse of a child under 12 years of age, a class B felony, punishable by 10-20 years of incarceration.

The couple was arrested on May 23 following an investigation that commenced with an anonymous tip to the Mayfield Police Department that two juveniles were being neglected and abused, according to the criminal complaints. A Mayfield police officer followed-up on the tip and contacted the Calloway County Department of Community-Based Services (DCBS) office, expressing concerns that the homeschooled children were not eating properly, not receiving adequate medical attention and were isolated from family and friends.

Through the social worker’s investigation, it was discovered that the children had not been seen by their primary care providers since January 2023. The Arnetts were urged to seek additional medical treatments at that time because of malnutrition concerns related to the children being underweight for their size, but the caregivers appear to have not heeded that advice as they continued to lose weight over the next 16 months.

Due to the severity of their condition, the children were referred to Vanderbilt on May 22 and immediately admitted. Additionally noting the children bore marks and bruising consistent with physical abuse, Vanderbilt staff advised the DCBS worker to contact law enforcement.

After meeting with the social worker, Calloway County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Nathan Hopkins launched his own investigation and filed a criminal complaint in Calloway District Court; Calloway District Judge Randall Hutchens issued warrants, and the couple was arrested that night.

Robert posted the $5,000 cash bond the next day, and his arraignment was pushed out to June. Samantha was not able to immediately post bond and appeared in district court on May 28, where she waived formal arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty. On June 5, she waived her preliminary hearing and agreed to advancing the case to circuit court. She posted bond the next day.  

Samantha Arnett walks out of the courtroom following her arraignment today in Calloway Circuit Court. JESSICA PAINE/The Murray Sentinel

Represented by local attorney Mitch Ryan, Robert waived formal arraignment in district court and pleaded not guilty on June 18. He appeared again last Wednesday for a preliminary hearing, which he waived. He will make his first appearance before Moore on Monday, July 15, at 8:30 a.m., for his circuit court arraignment. 

“Robert is deeply saddened by the situation at hand,” Ryan said last week. “We are dedicated to ensuring that all facts and evidence are thoroughly examined and that justice is served accordingly. Our client maintains his innocence and we are committed to diligently representing him throughout the legal process. We appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience as we work towards a resolution in this unfortunate matter.”

Individuals charged with crimes are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Read our previous coverage: Foster parents arrested after children found to be extremely malnourished

Sentinel Staff

Jessica Paine
I’m Jessica Paine, founder of The Murray Sentinel. You may know me from my time as a citizen journalist, running the Calloway Covid-19 Count page on Facebook, or you may be familiar with my more recent work for another local news outlet. Being that I’m “from here,” you may have known me since I was “knee-high to a grasshopper,” although you knew me as Jessica Jones. But whether you know me or not, I’m glad you found your way here.


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