COA reduces counts in armed burglary of elderly Franklin couple

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A man’s burglary conviction has been reduced from a Level 1 felony after he broke into an elderly couple’s Franklin home and bound them at gunpoint before stealing weapons, money and their car. An appellate panel concluded that injury to the elderly man’s mind did not qualify as a bodily injury.

In 2017, Reese Keith was arrested and admitted to Johnson Memorial Hospital following a car accident that took place while he was high on methamphetamine. Keith was discharged from the hospital, but was quickly returned without police escort after seizure activity was detected.

In the early morning hours, Keith left the hospital without being formally discharged and broke into the garage of Clayton and Ella Dixon, then 90- and 88- years-old. Keith slept in the garage while still in his hospital gown, and later broke into elderly couple’s home through a window after they left to run errands. Inside, Keith changed into Clayton’s clothes and ransacked the home, discovering firearms.

Upon their return and with a rifle in hand, Keith bound the Dixons’ arms and legs with duct tape to a chair and walker. He then stole more money from their wallets, took their car keys and drove off in the Dixon’s vehicle with three guns and cash. Clayton managed to cut himself free with a pocketknife, and the authorities were alerted.

Keith was later arrested in Richmond and subsequently was sentenced to an aggregate 62 years for conviction of Level 1 felony burglary of a dwelling resulting in serious bodily injury; two counts of Level 3 felony robbery while armed with a deadly weapon; two counts of Level 3 felony criminal confinement while armed with a deadly weapon; Level 6 felony auto theft and an adjudication as a habitual offender.

During trial, the Dixons’ sons testified that after the offense, their father’s Alzheimer’s dementia had taken a downward spiral. He became sedentary, withdrawn, angry and confused, and was ultimately taken to a psychiatric hospital and transferred to an assisted living facility. Clayton was not expected to return home or live independently again. 

Additionally, Clayton’s neurologist opined that his changes in behavior were likely caused by the offense because he had experienced a rapid, acute decline immediately after the events. The state thus alleged that Keith had caused serious bodily injury in the form of “permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of Clayton Dixon’s mind.”

But the Indiana Court of Appeals found insufficient evidence supported that theory in Reese Levi Keith v. State of Indiana,18A-CR-1961, noting that a serious bodily injury must be a bodily injury, which is an impairment of a physical condition.

“Applying the plain meanings of the terms, we conclude that an injury to the mind, as alleged here by the State, does not qualify as a bodily injury. The State did not allege that Keith had damaged Clayton’s brain but, rather, that he had damaged Clayton’s mind,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the panel.

“Although the mind has a physical location in the brain, its functioning is primarily mental, not physical. Thus, any impairment to its functioning is not primarily the impairment of a physical condition,” the panel continued. “To hold otherwise would be to eviscerate the meaning of the term ‘physical condition’ and would conceivably allow the State to charge a defendant with an offense resulting in serious bodily injury whenever it negatively impacted the victim’s mental state.”

It therefore vacated Keith’s Level 1 felony burglary conviction and remanded for resentencing as a Level 3 felony. The appellate court next rejected Keith’s continuous crime doctrine claim, finding the issue to be waived and that it would not have otherwise barred his convictions.

However, the appellate court found issue with the trial court’s issuance of a 15-year habitual offender enhancement to run consecutively to Keith’s burglary and Count II robbery convictions, rather than specifically attaching the enhancement to one of those two felonies.

“As part of its resentencing order, the trial court must attach the habitual offender enhancement to one of Keith’s felony convictions,” the appellate panel concluded, additionally ordering the trial court to correct the abstract of judgment to reflect that Count IV was a conviction for robbery with a deadly weapon.

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