Superior Court No. 1 Judge Kent Apsley sentenced Danielle Erin Johns (formerly Danielle Erin Lemen), 28, to nine years in prison for Neglect of a Dependent Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury. He suspended two of the years to probation, but also required home detention for the duration of that two years.
Shelby County Prosecutor Brad Landwerlen says the case began on October 29, 2018, when a 4-month old child was taken to MHP Medical Center, then transferred to Riley Hospital for treatment. The child had several injuries – including but not limited to two skull fractures, bleeding on the brain, bleeding behind one eye, multiple broken ribs, a fractured tibia, a fractured tibia, and bleeding on the spine. Johns had been caring for the child, who is her niece.
The infant victim underwent emergency brain surgery, and has had several visits and treatments with various specialists. She seems to be recovering, though the long-term extent of her injuries are still unknown.
Shelbyville Police Detectives Brian Roberts and Deb Tilford investigated the case. When police interviewed Johns, she denied any knowledge of the injuries. She thereafter took and failed a polygraph, and subsequently gave three different versions of accounts relating to the injuries, but still denied hurting the child. The prosecutor states Johns finally claimed that she had smoked marijuana and fallen asleep, dropping the child, and then later claimed that she had fallen onto the child after smoking marijuana though the prosecutor says these explanations are inconsistent with many of the injuries. Johns finally admitted to causing the injuries at her sentencing hearing Friday.
The victim’s mother testified through tears at the sentencing hearing about the medical procedures and difficulties that the child faced, and continues to face. She testified about the fear they felt when the victim learned to sit up and eventually to stand – worrying that a simple fall could cause serious injury. The mother says she still worries about the child’s injuries causing problems as the child gets older – possible developmental problems, or even injuries from playing or sports being worse than most kids may experience. She requested that Judge Apsley impose the full nine years in prison.
Johns’ attorney, Rock Lee, from Indianapolis, requested just one year in prison, followed by probation – pointing out that this is her first criminal conviction.
Prosecutor Brad Landwerlen detailed the child’s injuries and continuing challenges, as well as Johns’ recent violation of a No Contact Order, in asking for a harsher sentence.
Judge Apsley pointed out that the type of injuries, including a fractured femur, are not easy to cause, when he imposed the sentence. At Landwerlen’s request, Judge Apsley also ordered Johns to complete an anger management course once released from prison.
Landwerlen says while they wanted a bit more executed sentence, the victim’s parents are satisfied with the outcome.
Landwerlen added, “This is a sad case, where a family is torn apart and a beautiful, innocent, helpless baby has suffered more than any person ever should – all at the hands of the person trusted to provide her safety and security.”