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Hocking County couple sentenced in death of 2-year-old girl

Records say Destani Neel will spend at least 20 years in prison while her boyfriend Austin Starkey will spend 10 to 15 years behind bars.
Credit: (Images Courtesy: Hocking County Sheriff's Office)

HOCKING COUNTY, Ohio — A Hocking County couple was sentenced to prison in connection to the death of a 2-year-old girl.

In January 2021, Destani Neel and her boyfriend, Austin Starkey, were arrested and charged after 2-year-old Arianna Starkey died.

Hocking County EMS were called to an apartment on Jan 8. for reports that Arianna was not breathing. She died at Nationwide Children's Hospital two days later.

The coroner's report showed Arianna died from blunt force trauma to her head and neck.

Neel and Starkey were both charged with murder two months after her death.

Investigators determined the couple's original story on how Arianna's injuries occurred was not factual. The initial story was fabricated in an attempt to hide injuries that were actually the result of an assault.

Neel was convicted of aggravated murder and will spend at least 20 years in prison, records say.

Starkey was convicted of permitting child abuse and tampering with physical evidence. He was sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison. Murder, endangering children and felonious assault charges were dismissed.

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