Appeals court upholds 35-year sentence in toddler’s killing

A Merrillville man convicted of fatally beating his girlfriend’s toddler won no relief from his convictions or his 35-year sentence on appeal Wednesday.

The Indiana Court of Appeals let stand Lavoyd Shepherd’s punishment in which five years was suspended for his conviction of Level 1 felony aggravated battery, Level 2 felony counts of voluntary manslaughter and battery resulting in death to a person less than 14 years old and Level 5 felony battery resulting in injury to a person less than 14 years old.

Shepherd was convicted after a five-day jury trial in which prosecutors said he fatally beat a 21-month-old child as she slept, after her 10-year-old brother awoke Shepherd to tell him the baby was crying. Shepherd’s theory of the case was that the toddler’s injuries had been inflicted by either her brother or the baby’s father from whom the child had been picked up the day before in a parenting-time exchange.

But the jury relied on forensic evidence including a coroner’s findings that the child’s injuries appeared to have occurred within about two hours of her injuries, and that the blunt force nature of the child’s multiple injuries, either of which would have been lethal, could not have been inflicted by her older brother.

The appeals panel rejected all of the defense’s arguments on appeal in Lavoyd Danta Shepherd v. State of Indiana, 20A-CR-00179.

“(W)e conclude that the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Shepherd inflicted (the toddler’s) injuries; the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding (the toddler’s brother’s) video-recorded interviews; Shepherd’s instructional claim is moot; the trial court acted within its discretion in admitting the images seized from Shepherd’s cell phone; Shepherd’s sentence does not violate Indiana’s Proportionality Clause; and Shepherd’s sentence is not inappropriate,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the unanimous panel.

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