By Associated Press - Saturday, September 12, 2020

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - A northern Indiana man whose guilty plea in the 2014 house fire deaths of his twin 3-year-old sons was vacated last year is set for a January trial after being charged a second time in their deaths.

A Tippecanoe County judge scheduled jury selection for Jan. 11 for Brandon Abbott, who faces two counts of neglect of a dependent resulting in death and a dozen drug-related charges.

Those drug charges were dismissed after Abbott, 37, pleaded guilty in March 2015 to two counts of neglect of a dependent resulting in death. He was then sentenced to 70 years in prison for the April 2014 deaths of Landon and Liam Abbott.

But a judge vacated Abbott’s guilty plea in February 2019 after an attorney for Abbott argued that his sentence was illegal because his guilty pleas were not made knowingly or voluntarily and that there was an error in sentencing.

Abbott was returned to the Tippecanoe County Jail in May 2019, where he remains awaiting trial.

Prosecutors also filed two additional drug charges against Abbott earlier this year, the Journal & Courier reported.

Abbott operated a drug-growing operation inside the rented house where the boys died during a weekend visit with their father at the home near the town of Mulberry, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Indianapolis, prosecutors said.

In his appeal, Abbott said he arranged for a friend and a babysitter to watch the children, before he later passed out. He said in his appeal that he was unconscious when the fire began and said he was burned while trying to reach his sons.

Investigators said a blood test on Abbott after the fire showed that he had recently used marijuana, ecstasy and hydrocodone, according to the probable cause affidavit.

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