(SALEM) - The mother of a little boy who failed to get medical care for him after he was allegedly abused by her then-boyfriend has been sentenced to prison.
27-year-old Rose McNeely of Salem entered a blind plea on a C felony charge of neglect of a dependent. She was sentenced to four years, two suspended, followed by probation at the conclusion of a lengthy and dramatic sentencing hearing that spanned two days in late April in Washington Circuit Court.
According to the Leader Democrat, McNeely's current boyfriend, 25-year-old Bradley Henson, became so aggressive and disrespectful that he left the stand, stormed out and was found in contempt of court. Judge Larry Medlock was clearly moved by what he witnessed in court and had poignant words for McNeely.
This case involves three arrests and was highly unusual in that text messages led to the arrest of one of them. Nicole Carol Mann, ex-wife of 30-year-old Kilijah Mann, who is accused of hurting McNeely's child, entered a plea agreement and was sentenced to 180 days with 164 suspended, plus 164 days probation, for failing to report the suspected abuse.
Medlock referenced the conversations between the Manns.
"I look at the text messages. Kilijah Mann to Nicole Mann: 'I have hurt him today, too. ... I know I smacked him so hard it knocked him out.' From Nicole to Kilijah: 'Do you remember calling me last night in tears because you thought you killed him? This is serious, Kilijah. Is your relationship with her really worth spending the rest of your life in prison? I wish you would see that you hate that kid and that isn't going to change.'"
Regarding the photos of the toddler which were admitted into evidence, Medlock said, "It would seem to me it's obvious something's going on more than inadvertent falls and tickling." Prior to her arrest McNeely told authorities the bruises on her baby were a result of Kilijah Mann "tickling him with his mouth." The little boy was finally taken for medical care after authorties were alerted. McNeely admitted to police that her son's eyes were so swollen he couldn't see and she had to lead him around the house.
"I'll be honest with you," Medlock told her. "This made an impact upon me." The judge said, "I'm glad you've accepted responsibility for your actions, or lack of action. I believe you love and care for your children greatly." McNeely testified she had worked two jobs, forcing her to be away from her children, but apparently she chose to be elsewhere in her free time. "I ask myself, 'Why wasn't she there when she had the opportunity?" asked Medlock. He noted "your testimony that you were using drugs during that period of time."
Referring to her current boyfriend, Medlock said "he couldn't control himself in here. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't grant much credence to Mr. Houchin's argument that there's a pattern. But I saw it." Due to his actions in court, Medlock found Henson in contempt and sentenced him to 180 days in jail. (See related story for more.)
The judge warned McNeely: "You need to be very careful about who you allow around your children because they have a big effect - a big effect - that's past, present and future." Medlock referenced a private conversation he had with McNeely's oldest child, saying he wouldn't divulge what was said but told McNeely she didn't necessarily know everything that had occurred.
McNeely was represented by public defender Ethan Bartanen who argued it would be "a travesty" for McNeely's children to lose their mother. "I agree with him," said Medlock, "but it would be an even bigger travesty if one of your children lost their life."
Medlock sentenced McNeely to four years with two years suspended in the Indiana Department of Correction. With credit for time served, she could be released in about a year. She will then be on probation two years and must complete parenting classes as well as drug and alcohol classes.
Prosecutor Houchin agreed with Medlock that McNeely was remorseful. "She appeared to care about her children and was upset that he had been injured, but there are consequences for actions." Houchin said the little boy, now 2 1/2, did not suffer lasting physical consequences. "He did fully recover, physically, anyway."
"I'm glad the judge imposed an incarceration as part of the sentence," said Houchin. "I think as a nation, as a state, as a community, too many people treat children very badly. It's sad and terrible and I hope people will pay attention to the sentence and be helpful, rather than harmful, to the kids in our community."
Kilijah Mann, the last person involved in the case, has chosen to go to trial. He is charged with two Class B felonies for battery causing serious bodily injury to a child under age 14 and neglect of a dependent.
His trial was set for this summer, but is expected to be delayed so that the state may try the case of Jamie Lykins who is charged in the death of baby Leelan Crain. Lykins is charged with battery resulting in death and neglect of a dependent in the death of the infant, the son of his girlfriend. The baby's mother, Casey Crain, is also in jail awaiting her trial on a charge of neglect of a dependent.
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