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Julia and Chris Welton charged with negligent child abuse in death of son Levi, pot use targeted

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Was marijuana a contributing factor in the death of two-year-old Levi Welton earlier this year?

Expect this to be among the arguments made against his parents, Julia and Chris Welton. More than two months after Levi died following a fire in the family's Sterling home, his mother and father have been accused of negligent child abuse resulting in death, among other charges -- and pot smoking appears to be central to the case against them. See photos, video and details below.

Facebook pages for Julia, reportedly a medical marijuana card holder, and Chris remain online at this writing, and photos co-starring Levi are featured prominently on each. Here's a shot with him and his dad....

...and here's another in which he's seen having fun with both Chris and Julia: Such joy was replaced by mourning on January 15. At about 7:29 p.m. on that date, according to the South Platte Sentinel, Sterling firefighters responded to the Welton home, located at 125 State Street. Shortly thereafter, personnel found Levi in a closet, not far from where the fire broke out. He was rushed to a local hospital, but didn't respond to treatment. Chris was hurt in the incident, suffering burns on his hands, presumably while trying to rescue Levi and his five-year-old brother, Dean. But despite these efforts, he and Julia were soon targeted with accusations of neglect reported by 7News.

In a report on view below, the station referred to paperwork suggesting that both Levi and Dean had tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, during the weeks and months prior to the fire, which is said to have started in a pile of clothing and blankets underneath the window in the bedroom where Levi was found.

Continue for more about the charges against Julia and Chris Welton, including additional photos and a video. A lighter was also located in the room, but it's unclear if it sparked the conflagration.

Additionally, the 7News piece referenced a Logan County Department of Human Services report hinting at possible fire danger, due to an incident in which Julia is said to have dropped hot cigarette ash on the carpeting without noticing, and drug use beyond pot -- specifically "little white pills on the floor and in Levi Welton's hand."

The report also quoted sources saying that "many people" were in the Welton home on the night of the fire, with a number of them smoking marijuana while Levi and Dean were left unattended.

Viewers reacted angrily to these claims. In a subsequent interview with Fox31, Chris denied that either of the boys registered a positive THC test and claimed that he and Julia had received death threats. He added that he lost his job as a plumber due to the negative publicity.

As for Julia, she told the outlet, "All of these rumors about us killing our son need to quit. And I'm tired of hearing them. I want to mourn about my son without all the rumors."

Meanwhile, the investigation into the fire and what may have led up to it moved forward. And this week, it resulted in the arrests of Chris and Julia.

The Sterling Journal-Advocate lists the charges as negligent child abuse resulting in death and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, both felonies, and misdemeanor negligent child abuse -- no injury, which presumably pertains to Dean.

The bond amount is listed as $100,000.

Look below to see the 7News report from January.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive circa August 2013: "Regina Marquez, who called child abuse claims 'ridiculous,' pleads guilty to child abuse."

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