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Date: 02-04-2019

Case Style:

Ryann S. Clark v. State of Indiana

Case Number: 18A-CR-1136

Judge: Rudolph R. Pyle III

Court: COURT OF APPEALS OF INDIANA

Plaintiff's Attorney: Evan Matthew Comer
Deputy Attorney General

Defendant's Attorney: Kurt A. Young

Description:




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In early July of 2016, TJ was born to Christina Pritchard (“Pritchard”) and
Clark. Clark voluntarily admitted to paternity and received visitation with TJ
every week on his day off from work and again from Saturday morning until
Sunday night. By the end of August, the visitation schedule had been adjusted
to allow TJ to stay with Clark and his mother, Gidgette Hall (“Hall”), for
extended periods of time. This change was intended to allow TJ to spend more
time with Hall, who was terminally ill.

1 IND. CODE § 35-46-1-4.
Court of Appeals of Indiana | Memorandum Decision 18A-CR-1136 | January 31, 2019 Page 3 of 9

[4] Eight-week old TJ went to stay with Clark at his house for a week, beginning
on August 30th. On the morning of September 2nd, Clark “saw this lump . . . the
size of [his] pinky . . . on the side of [TJ’s] head.” (Tr. Vol. 3 at 15). He took
TJ to Hall, who “started to freak out.” (Tr. Vol. 3 at 15). Hall then called TJ’s
pediatrician, Dr. Rachel Woods (“Dr. Woods”), to schedule an appointment
for later that day.
[5] Clark and Hall accompanied TJ to Dr. Woods’ office. Dr. Woods performed
an examination and found TJ very fussy. When she examined TJ’s head,
“there was a squishiness to it,” and she saw that “the skull could possibly be
fractured.” (Tr. Vol. 2 at 60). She also saw “a bruise on his right cheek.” (Tr.
Vol. 2 at 60). Dr. Woods questioned Clark about the head injury, but Clark
initially stated that he did not know what had happened. Dr. Woods asked
Clark what happened a second time, and he stated that “TJ was laying on a bed
and then perhaps something hit him.” (Tr. Vol. 2 at 60).
[6] Dr. Woods referred TJ to Columbus Regional Hospital for an emergency CT
scan of his head. The CT scan revealed that TJ suffered from “a right parietal
fracture and then a hematoma in the brain.” (Tr. Vol. 2 at 62). Following the
CT scan, Dr. Woods flagged TJ’s case for possible child abuse and contacted
the Department of Child Services (“DCS”). DCS initiated an investigation and
TJ was transferred to Riley Hospital for Children (“Riley Hospital”) for further
care.
Court of Appeals of Indiana | Memorandum Decision 18A-CR-1136 | January 31, 2019 Page 4 of 9

[7] Pritchard, who met Clark, Hall, and TJ at Columbus Regional, rode in the
ambulance with TJ to Riley Hospital. After arriving at Riley, Pritchard called
Clark and asked him to explain what had happened to TJ. Clark told her that
he had tripped over the dog and dropped TJ onto a mattress.
[8] The Riley Hospital doctors diagnosed TJ with a fractured skull and soft tissue
swelling, both of which are indicators of possible trauma in a non-mobile
infant. They then ordered TJ to undergo an MRI, which revealed bleeding on
the surface of his brain. Based on the nature of the injuries, Riley Hospital
social worker, Jennifer Benson (“Social Worker Benson”), was notified. Social
Worker Benson completed a full psycho-social assessment of TJ and then spoke
with the emergency room physicians and the neurosurgeon. Together, they
concluded that TJ’s injuries were not consistent with Clark’s claim that TJ was
dropped on a mattress. They then decided to make another report to DCS to
ensure an investigation occurred outside of the hospital.
[9] At approximately 8:00 p.m. on September 2nd, DCS family case manager,
Stephanie Clephane (“Case Manager Clephane”), received a call from the child
abuse hotline. Thereafter, she requested assistance from the Brown County
Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Brian Shrader (“Deputy Shrader”) was assigned to
the case. Clark voluntarily participated in an interview with Case Manager
Clephane and Deputy Shrader.
[10] Initially, Clark explained that he had no idea what had happened to TJ. He
acknowledged that he was TJ’s sole caregiver from August 30th until the time of
Court of Appeals of Indiana | Memorandum Decision 18A-CR-1136 | January 31, 2019 Page 5 of 9

the injury. Clark eventually stated that on the night of September 1st, he was
walking to put TJ in his bassinet when his dog jumped on him causing him to
fall. He explained that he then threw TJ onto the bed, and he landed in a
“crevice” between his mattress and the wall of his bedroom. (Tr. Vol. 2 at 106).
Clark further explained that he had heard a “thud” after throwing TJ, but TJ
did not cry at all. (Tr. Vol. 2 at 101). Clark then checked TJ over and saw no
signs of injury. After the interview, Case Manager Clephane conducted a home
visit. During this visit, she took photographs of Clark’s bedroom and did not
find a crevice between the mattress and the wall.
[11] TJ was discharged from Riley Hospital on September 3rd but was readmitted
one day later. During the second admission, TJ was seen by Dr. Shannon
Thompson (“Dr. Thompson”), a general pediatrician who also specializes in
child abuse pediatrics. Dr. Thompson performed a physical examination of TJ
and observed that he had bruising on his right temple, his right cheek, his lower
right buttock, and small abrasions under his chin. She also reviewed TJ’s
records from his previous hospital stay. Dr. Thompson noted that, while skull
fractures ordinarily cause blood to pool directly underneath the injury, in TJ’s
case, blood was present elsewhere in his brain. She concluded that TJ
experienced some form of trauma and that the injuries were the result of a
single impact. Based on her experience, she believed that TJ “was a victim of
non-accidental trauma or abuse.” (Tr. Vol. 2 at 222).
[12] The State charged Clark with Level 3 felony domestic battery resulting in
serious bodily injury to a person less than fourteen years old and Level 3 felony
Court of Appeals of Indiana | Memorandum Decision 18A-CR-1136 | January 31, 2019 Page 6 of 9

neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury. The trial court
conducted a three-day jury trial. Dr. Woods, Case Manager Clephane, Deputy
Shrader, Pritchard, Social Worker Benson, Dr. Thompson, and TJ’s maternal
grandmother, Tonya Jackson, testified to the facts above for the State.
[13] Clark testified on his own behalf. He stated that as he was going to put TJ into
his bassinet, his dog jumped up, and he tripped over the dog. Clark further
explained that as he fell to the ground, his “first reaction” was to toss TJ on the
bed. (Tr. Vol. 3 at 19). When Clark got up, he found TJ “in the crevice of –
between . . . – the wall and [his] mattress.” (Tr. Vol. 3 at 19). On cross
examination, Clark acknowledged that “throwing a 56[-]day old child” would
endanger the child. (Tr. Vol. 3 at 28).
[14] Dr. Andre Lloyd (“Dr. Lloyd”), a bio-mechanical engineer with a PhD in
pediatric head injuries, also testified on behalf of Clark. Dr. Lloyd reviewed all
of TJ’s medical records, the police report, and the DCS interview. He testified
that he believed TJ’s head injury was the result of a “single impact event.” (Tr.
Vol. 3 at 54). He further explained that he did not believe TJ’s injury had
occurred the way Clark had stated. Specifically, Dr. Lloyd concluded that the
“characteristics tell you that . . . the tossing on the bed wasn’t . . . [the] abrupt
event.” (Tr. Vol. 3 at 54-55).
[15] The jury found Clark guilty of neglect of a dependent, and not guilty of
domestic battery. The court then sentenced Clark to ten (10) years in the
Court of Appeals of Indiana | Memorandum Decision 18A-CR-1136 | January 31, 2019 Page 7 of 9

Department of Correction, with six (6) years suspended to probation. Clark
now appeals.
Decision
[16] On appeal, Clark challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for his Level 3
felony neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury conviction. Our
standard of review for sufficiency of evidence claims is well-settled. We do not
assess the credibility of the witnesses or reweigh the evidence in determining
whether the evidence is sufficient. Drane v. State, 867 N.E.2d 144, 146 (Ind.
2007). We consider only the probative evidence and reasonable inferences
supporting the verdict. Id. Reversal is appropriate only when no reasonable
fact-finder could find the elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable
doubt. Id. The evidence is not required to overcome every reasonable
hypothesis of innocence and is sufficient if an inference may reasonably be
drawn from it to support the verdict. Id. at 147.
[17] Clark does not dispute that he was in a position of care concerning TJ at the
time he was injured, nor does he contest the fact the TJ suffered serious bodily
injury. Instead, Clark argues that there was insufficient evidence to establish
that he knowingly placed TJ in a situation endangering TJ’s life or health
resulting in serious bodily injury.
[18] To obtain a conviction for neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily
injury, a Level 3 felony, the State was required to prove beyond a reasonable
doubt that Clark had the care of a dependent and knowingly placed the
Court of Appeals of Indiana | Memorandum Decision 18A-CR-1136 | January 31, 2019 Page 8 of 9

dependent in a situation endangering the dependent’s life or health resulting in
serious bodily injury. I.C. § 35-46-1-4. A person engages in conduct knowingly
if, “when he engages in the conduct, he is aware of a high probability that he is
doing so.” I.C. § 35-41-2-2(b).
Under the child neglect statute a ‘knowing’ mens rea requires a subjective awareness of a ‘high probability’ that a dependent had been placed in a dangerous situation. Because, in most cases, such a finding requires the factfinder to infer the defendant’s mental state, this Court must look to all the surrounding circumstances of a case to determine if a guilty verdict is proper.

Pierson v. State, 73 N.E.3d 737, 741 (Ind. Ct. App. 2017) (internal citations and
quotations omitted), trans. denied.
[19] Here, the jury heard evidence that TJ was not injured in the manner described
by Clark, specifically that TJ hit his head on a mattress. Three of the State’s
witnesses explained that, at the least, it was extremely unlikely that TJ’s skull
fracture resulted from falling on a bed. Additionally, Clark’s own witness, Dr.
Lloyd, testified that “the tossing on the bed wasn’t . . . [the] abrupt event.” (Tr.
Vol. 3 at 54-55). In addition to the skull fracture, TJ also had significant
bruising on his right temple, right cheek, and right buttock. Dr. Thompson
believed all of TJ’s injuries were the result of a single impact. In further
contrast to Clark’s explanation for TJ’s injuries, Dr. Thompson stated that TJ’s
injuries were caused by “non-accidental trauma or abuse.” (Tr. Vol. 2 at 222).
Dr. Woods similarly believed the most likely cause of the injuries was due to
“[s]ome sort of trauma.” (Tr. Vol. 2 at 62). Importantly, Clark, the only adult
Court of Appeals of Indiana | Memorandum Decision 18A-CR-1136 | January 31, 2019 Page 9 of 9

present in the bedroom when TJ sustained his injuries, acknowledged that
“throwing a 56[-]day old child” would endanger the child. (Tr. Vol. 3 at 28).
Based on all the evidence, the jury could have reasonably inferred that Clark
was aware of a high probability that he placed TJ in a dangerous situation by
throwing him. See, e.g., Dexter v. State, 945 N.E.2d 220, 224 (Ind. Ct. App.
2011) (affirming neglect conviction of defendant who, despite being warned not
to do so by defendant’s mother and child’s mother, threw a wet three-year-old
child into the air above a bathtub, failed to catch the child, and child sustained
fatal head trauma after hitting the tub), trans. granted, summarily aff’d in relevant
part, 959 N.E.2d 235, 237 (Ind. 2012). Accordingly, we hold that the evidence
was sufficient to support the jury’s determination that Clark knowingly placed
TJ in a situation endangering TJ’s life or health resulting in serious bodily
injury.

Outcome: Affirmed

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