COA: Trial court didn’t err in sentencing child molesting mom

A trial court didn’t exceed its statutory authority when it sentenced a Howard County woman to more than 20 years for molesting her two young children, according to the Indiana Court of Appeals. Further, the appellate court found her sentence was not inappropriate considering her offenses and character, saying S.B. “is among the worst of the worst” offenders.

In late June 2019, C.K. sent messages to an acquaintance via Facebook Messenger confessing that he and his ex-girlfriend, S.B., engaged in numerous sex acts with S.B.’s minor sons. At the time, S.B.’s sons were 6 years old and 3 years old. The acquaintance relayed C.K.’s sexually explicit confessions to the police.

During S.B.’s police interview, she initially denied knowledge of the crimes and cited her methamphetamine use with C.K. for her lack of memory. S.B., then 31 years old, subsequently admitted that she and C.K. snorted methamphetamine, undressed her sons and engaged in oral and anal sex acts with them. The adults also engaged in sexual activity with each other in the presence of the boys and watched pornography and asked the boys to mimic various acts on S.B.

The state charged S.B. with two counts of child molesting as Level 1 felonies as well as two counts of incest as Level 4 felonies. In February 2021, S.B. agreed to plead guilty to the two charged counts of incest in exchange for the state’s agreement not to file additional charges and to dismiss the remaining charges.

The Howard Circuit Court sentenced S.B. to an aggregate of 21 years served plus three years of probation. On appeal, S.B. argued the trial court erred in ordering consecutive sentences exceeding the statutory limit of 15 years set by Indiana Code § 35-50- 1-2 because incest is not a “crime of violence” pursuant to I.C. 35-50-1-2(a). She also argued the offenses for which she was convicted arose from a single episode of criminal conduct.

The COA agreed that S.B.’s incest convictions are not statutory “crimes of violence” but found that her crimes did not arise from a single “episode of criminal conduct.” Pointing to the Facebook messages in the probable cause affidavit, the court determined no timeline was made for the various sex acts.

“We are left with the probable cause affidavit alleging more than one incident of depraved sexual activity with the boys,” Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote for the COA. “… Additionally, we note that the hearing record reveals that defense counsel proposed an eight-year sentence to be followed by a suspended eight-year sentence. This evinces the defense’s recognition that the charged offenses did not constitute a single episode of conduct for which S.B.’s sentence was subject to a fifteen-year limit.”

The argument that S.B.’s sentence was inappropriate based on her character was also rejected by the COA.

“The level of depravity of a mother, engaging in various forms of sexual activity with her three-year-old and six-year-old sons, along with her boyfriend, is unthinkable,” Tavitas wrote. “S.B. is among the worst of the worst offenders we have encountered. We refuse to say that the nature of S.B.’s vile offenses does not support the maximum sentence.”

The case is S.B. v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-698.

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