VALPARAISO | A man in prison for beating his then-pregnant girlfriend is seeking early release to take care of that child and another after their mother's death in a recent Lake Station house fire.
James Collins, 29, argues that despite the offense, Jennifer Teel described him during the sentencing hearing as "a fit and proper parent and actively involved in both the financial and emotional support of the children," according to a motion filed by defense attorney Bryan Truitt.
Collins is the biological father of both children, according to the motion for sentence modification.
He was sentenced in September by Porter Superior Judge David Chidester to six years behind bars for beating Teel.
Collins has a projected release date of Nov. 19, 2013, according to the Indiana Department of Correction.
Teel died of smoke inhalation and severe burns Dec. 10 in a fire that quickly swept through her house at 2260 Wayne St. Investigators have ruled out foul play.
Firefighters were able to rescue her two boys, Andrew Collins, 3, and Landon Teel, 1.
Teel is quoted in a transcript of the sentencing hearing as saying she had been involved in a romantic relationship with Collins for eight years and the violent act he pleaded guilty to was an isolated incident. She asked for leniency.
"I just want him to get this over with and come home and take care of the kids," according to the transcript.
Collins reportedly consumed a lot of alcohol at the time of the Sept. 19, 2010, incident.