Battery convictions sustained for man who burned child

A man convicted of burning his girlfriend’s child could not convince the Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday that his several convictions of battery subjected him to double jeopardy.

In Micah Richard Kunkle v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-02617, Micah Kunkle was convicted of several battery counts against his girlfriend’s 2-year old child after he burned the boy with scalding water.

Issues came to light when Dawn Walter returned home from work and noticed her son had burn marks on his back. When she questioned Kunkle, he said the child had “messed with the spigots” for the bathtub while Kunkle was grabbing a towel and fell into the tub, burning himself.

After Kunkle told Walter she would lose custody of her children if she took the child to the hospital and failed a drug test, she decided against it. However, Walter called for help about a month later after she found Kunkle holding the same child over the sink, attempting to make him throw up.

Kunkle, who claimed the child had found a bottle of pills and swallowed some, became “very angry,” prompting both Walter and her 9-year-old child to call for help. Doctors later determined that the child had a corneal abrasion, bruises and lacerations to his ears, head, shoulder, legs, hips, and arms. They also found that the child had marks on his body healing from an immersion burn that would have been caused from being “dipped into a scalding liquid.”

Kunkle was ultimately sentenced to an aggregate 22 years in prison for conviction of Level 3 felony counts of aggravated battery, battery resulting in serious bodily injury to a person less than 14 years old and neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury, as well as Level 5 felony battery resulting in bodily injury to a person less than 14 years of age.

A panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed, first rejecting Kunkle’s argument that his convictions for aggravated battery and two counts of battery violated the “actual evidence” test. The panel concluded that the aggravated battery charge was based on the child’s immersion burns, while the other two counts of battery were based on bruises and scratches, and bruises and pain. Similarly, the appellate court found the final instructions regarding Kunkle’s two contested battery charges were similar, but not identical, to the charging information.

“Because the prosecutor explained to the jury that it should convict Kunkle for one battery based on the bruises all over his body and for the other battery based on the corneal abrasion that would have been painful, we hold Kunkle was not exposed to Double Jeopardy when convicted of both counts of battery,” Judge Melissa May wrote for the appellate court.

Additionally, the appellate court found sufficient evidence to support Kunkle’s conviction of Level 3 felony neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury after concluding that the child “experienced repeated extreme pain as a result of Knuckles’ failure to obtain medical treatment” for the burns.

The appellate court therefore affirmed upon finding that Kunkle was not subjected to double jeopardy because the state argued different injuries to support each of his three convictions of battery and that there sufficient evidence existed to sustain his Level 3 felony conviction.

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