Convictions upheld for man who battered girlfriend, relative at family reunion

May 7, 2015

The Indiana Court of Appeals found that the victim of a battery at a family reunion was related to the perpetrator under Indiana statute, so the defendant’s Level 6 felony battery conviction was affirmed Thursday.

Leonard Suggs was convicted of Level 6 felonies domestic battery and battery following an incident at a Fort Wayne bowling alley. Suggs attended his family reunion at the bowling alley with his live-in girlfriend, Evelyn Garrett. Nearly 20 children were present, as was Vera Warren, whom Suggs had grown up calling “auntie.” Her brother had been married to Suggs’ aunt.

Suggs began yelling at Garrett, threw a beer can at her, and then picked up a bowling ball and threw it at her. It missed Garrett, but struck Warren on the side of the head. Suggs then dragged Garrett down the stairs by her hair. Two of the children saw the altercation, which was required to charge and convict him.

In Leonard L. Suggs v. State of Indiana, 02A03-1412-CR-440, Suggs argued the state didn’t prove that Garrett lived with him as a spouse or that Warren was related to him.

Suggs and Garrett lived together for two years, shared a bedroom and engaged in an intimate relationship. This is precisely the type of factual scenario addressed by the domestic battery statute, Judge John Baker noted. Suggs’ arguments amount to a request to reweigh the evidence, which the COA will not do.

To have convicted Suggs of Level 6 felony battery against Warren, the state had to show that she was a family or household member.  I.C. 35-31.5-2-128 includes a definition of a family or household member as someone who “is or was related by marriage to the other person.” Warren and Suggs were related because Suggs’ aunt was married to Warren’s brother.

“While we acknowledge that this is an attenuated familial relationship, in looking at the many broad factors set forth by the legislature in defining ‘family or household member,’ it is apparent that the legislature intended this to be a far-reaching term,” Baker wrote. It is reasonable that the jury would have inferred that Warren is a family or household member of Suggs, especially since he grew up calling her “auntie.”


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