By GARY POPP
A 23-year-old Jeffersonville woman was sentenced to six years in prison Monday after admitting to battering a 2-year-old child she was baby-sitting last year.
Kendra Diane Phillips, East Maple Street, had accepted a plea deal, which gave Clark County Circuit Court No. 4 Judge Vicki Carmichael the discretion to release her with no probation or find an appropriate sentence, and the judge gave her the maximum punishment.
During the sentencing hearing, the child’s father and Clark County sheriff’s correction officer Walter Woods, Charlestown, gave a testimony with his child, now 3 years old, wearing a pink dress sitting on his knee.
“There was a certain innocence taken away that night that will never be given back,” Woods said from the witness stand.
Woods gave his account of picking up his child from Phillips’ then-home in Eastlawn Apartments about 9 p.m. May 4, 2012. He said his daughter ran from the home when he arrived, and after he placed her in the vehicle, he noticed the side of her face was red and swollen. He said a large bruise developed that marked the child’s face for more than a month.
After Jeffersonville Police Department officers were called to Phillips’ home, Woods took his child to Clark Memorial Hospital for an examination of her injuries. While at the hospital, handprint bruising was found on the child’s buttocks and leg.
Phillips was convicted of class C felony neglect of a dependent causing injury, but the three additional charges — two counts neglect of dependent and battery causing bodily injury to a person less than 14 years of age, all class D felonies, were dismissed.
The state was represented by Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Linda Lamping, who told Carmichael she was seeking the maximum punishment, despite an official from Clark County Probation Office recommending that Phillips be sentenced to four years imprisonment and two years of probation.
On the day of the crime, after police responded, Phillips was found to be intoxicated.
While speaking with Woods outside of the home, police reported “ ... Phillips stumbled across the parking lot and asked what’s going on?”
She initially told police she had discovered the child’s injuries after she had taken a shower and left the toddler and an 11-week-old baby in the care of a 9-year-old child.
“Upon exiting the shower, [Phillips] found [a child] in the kitchen making a mess and that she smacked her bottom and that moments later she noticed the 2-year-old’s face becoming red,” according to the police report.
Phillips later told police she struck the child in the face after finding her going through kitchen cabinets.
During the interview with Phillips, police reported that she was having trouble standing and answering simple questions. When asked if she had been drinking, Phillips said no, but later tested a 0.26 blood alcohol concentration to a portable breath test, more than three times the legal limit.
Less than a week after her arrest, a $500 bond was posted, and Phillips was released from the Michael L. Becher Adult Correctional Complex.
At an undetermined time, she was placed in the work-release program, where individuals sleep at the jail, but are able to leave during the day. Lamping said while in the program, Phillips had returned to the jail intoxicated.
She was returned to the jail as a traditional inmate Aug. 5 and remains there today.
Lamping explained that Phillips, as with all Indiana Department of Correction inmates, will serve half of her sentence, barring unruly behavior at the facility. Phillips also could become eligible to serve the final year in work release.
“I felt that the six years was appropriate under these circumstances,” Lamping said of Carmichael’s sentence. “I think in Clark County we want to set the standard when you are responsible for the care of child that is 2 years old and that child is totally dependent on you, you can’t slap them about the face and body because they have done something you don’t like.”
Jeffersonville attorney John Grannan provided counsel to Phillips.
“I thought the sentencing was excessive, given the fact the child had no permanent injuries and Ms. Phillips’ [lack of] criminal history,” Grannan said.
Before Carmichael delivered the sentence, Phillips had the opportunity to make a statement, which she directed to Woods and his daughter.
“I do apologize to you and to her,” she said, also saying that she hopes to be able to receive treatment.
Following the hearing, Woods said he had faith in the court that a proper sentence would be handed down.
“I am happy with the sentence,” he said. “I am also hopeful that [Phillips] can get help and that she doesn’t injure anybody else in the future.”
Woods said he hopes the Phillips will be able to have a fruitful life following her sentencing.
“I don’t wish any bad upon her,” he said. “She injured my daughter, but for the most part, I just hope she can get help, get out and be productive.”
While the child’s physical injuries didn’t require follow-up medical attention, Woods said the extent of the emotion impact on his daughter from the abuse is more difficult to determine.
“I go for a while and think it is out of her mind, and then something triggers it and she reacts,” he said. “I was in hopes that she wouldn’t hold the memory.”
Woods said while walking through the Clark County Governmental Building to the courtroom, his daughter told him that she remembered having previously seen Phillips in the building.
“It is pretty hard on a father to go through that,” he said.
Woods said he had never taken the child in the courtroom during the hearings leading up to the sentencing. He said it was important that he attend those hearing in support of his daughter, however.
“If I am present and the court knows that I’m here, then they know I want a good result, that I want justice for my daughter,” Woods said.