COA: ‘Horrific nature’ of fatal neglect warrants 40-year sentence

A former Gary woman who starved an infant to death in inhabitable living conditions received no relief Wednesday in her appeal and will serve her 40-year sentence.

Katherine Shuwan Holmes argued to the Indiana Court of Appeals that the trial court that sentenced her on a Level 1 felony count of neglect of a dependent resulting in death and five counts of Level 6 felony neglect of a dependent failed to consider mitigating factors. These included a troubled childhood and her efforts to work to support her family, among others.

But Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote Holmes’ youngest child, K.M., weighed just 5.9 pounds when he died at 3 months of age. The infant had gained just 0.4 pounds since birth. The cause of death was malnutrition and dehydration.

Vaidik wrote the baby appeared to be neglected, had no body fat, was covered in dirt and had a burned  groin and perineum, most likely caused by urine. The home Holmes shared with the baby’s father, Jarrod McMillian, her brother and her six children was infested with roaches, fleas and bedbugs, was littered with garbage and had no beds.

Along with aggravating circumstances, the Lake Superior Court found as mitigating factors that Holmes had no criminal record and she pleaded guilty, but the court found aggravators in this case “substantially” outweighed mitigators. The appeals court agreed. The panel noted the trial court in its sentencing order ruled that the nature and circumstances of the crime were by far its primary consideration and that Holmes’ remorse was secondary.

“As for Holmes’s character, she argues that she was raised in deplorable conditions, had no criminal history before this case, was employed ‘in an attempt to provide for her children,’ and ‘appeared to express sincere remorse at the time of her sentencing,’” Vaidik wrote. “But even considering these things in Holmes’s favor, they do not overcome the horrific nature of the offense in Count I, as relayed by the trial court and exhibited by the photographs in this case. Holmes has failed to persuade us that her forty-year sentence for Count I is inappropriate.”

The case is Katherine Shuwan Holmes v. State of Indiana, 45A03-1705-CR-1155.

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