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Child beating verdict pared, sentence same

Appeals court cites double jeopardy, but prison term to stand

High on Spice and angry with an infant’s continued crying, then 22-year-old Troy Schnitz slammed the baby’s head into the floor, causing a skull fracture.

In a number of other episodes in October 2011, Schnitz repeatedly injured the child – hitting him in the head, causing other skull fractures; shaking the baby so forcefully that the infant’s retinas detached; and shoving a bottle into the baby’s mouth, tearing tissue and causing bleeding.

Huntington Circuit Judge Thomas Hakes sentenced Schnitz to 47 years in prison with three years suspended after the Roanoke man pleaded guilty to three counts of Class B felony battery resulting in serious bodily injury and one count of Class B felony neglect of a dependent causing serious bodily injury.

On Thursday, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld Schnitz’s overall sentence, but ruled that the neglect charge to which he pleaded amounted to double jeopardy.

Schnitz eventually took the baby to the doctor, and the infant was hospitalized for a few days for seizures and a fever the doctors diagnosed as pneumonia. Schnitz offered no information on what he had done to the child.

Then, a few days after the baby came home from the hospital, the child ended up in the emergency room again, this time in full cardiac arrest.

The little boy’s injuries were so severe that he was taken to Riley Hospital for Children in critical condition and will likely never walk, talk, sit up independently or be potty trained. According to court documents, he will likely not live more than a few years because of the risk of infection or seizures.

While Schnitz did not initially seek medical care for the baby, the “serious bodily injury” used to reach the higher-level felony in the battery charges was the same used to reach the higher-level felony on the neglect charge, the appeals court ruled.

“There were not separate and distinct facts supporting the offense of neglect,” Appellate Court Judge Terry Crone wrote.

Even though Schnitz appealed the length of his sentence, the appellate court upheld it because of the severity of the crime, even though it essentially tossed out the neglect charge.

rgreen@jg.net

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