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Neglect-linked injuries earn 10 years of prison


– Jason Morlan was sentenced Wednesday to what will likely be no more than five years in prison for his role in injuries suffered by his girlfriend’s children about a year ago.

Morlan, 29, formerly of the 3200 block of Sandhill Drive, pleaded guilty to two felony charges of neglect of a dependent earlier this year.

He was scheduled to be sentenced a couple weeks ago but was in the Wells County Jail on other charges. On Wednesday, Morlan was sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison on each charge, but Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull accepted a plea agreement with prosecutors and ordered the sentences to be served at the same time, with five years of each suspended.

Though he has 10 years to serve on each count, Morlan could be released in about five years with credit for good behavior. He must also serve three years’ probation.

In August, Morlan’s girlfriend, Christa Shaffer-Schuchman, 26, also pleaded guilty to two counts of neglect of a dependent. Under the terms of that plea agreement with prosecutors, Shaffer-Schuchman was sentenced to six years in prison. She was given five years on each count to be served consecutively. Four years of the sentence were ordered suspended and two years would be served on probation.

According to court documents, the case came to light in October 2012 when paramedics responded to a report of an unconscious 4-year-old girl.

A hospital examination revealed signs of fluid in her head and bruises of varying ages on her brain.

Shaffer-Schuchman said the girl had had trouble sleeping through the night.

Morlan’s sister was taking care of a second, younger girl while others were at the hospital and found the bruising all over her genital area while giving her a bath.

The girl also had bruising around her jaw line, according to court files.

When she asked Morlan about it, he said the girl had fallen down the stairs. Morlan’s sister didn’t believe him and, worried about the injuries, called paramedics.

Both girls were found to have bruises all over their bodies and were eventually removed from the home.

Morlan and Shaffer-Schuchman gave a variety of explanations for how the girls sustained their injuries – kids at school had kicked them, they had fallen down the stairs or they had fallen in the toilet.

The adults said they had been the primary caregivers for the children, with the exception of a stint in jail a few months before the discovery of the abuse.

Though the children initially offered tentative explanations – “maybe I fell down the stairs,” or “maybe I bumped into something” – over time they described a situation quite different.

According to court documents, they told interviewers and counselors they had been whipped with switches, belts or bamboo rods.

In April, one of the girls told her therapist that Morlan kicked her repeatedly in the “no-no” with his cowboy boots.

After Gull sentenced Morlan, he tried to convince her he needed confinement in the state psychiatric hospital, recounting that he once had a psychological exam. Gull told him his confinement was entirely at the discretion of the Indiana Department of Correction.