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Tkachik v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 3, 2014

TIMOTHY J. TKACHIK, Appellant-Defendant,
STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee-Plaintiff

Editorial Note:

These opinions are not precedents and cannot be cited or relied upon unless used when establishing res judicata or collateral estoppel or in actions between the same party. Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure 65(D).

APPEAL FROM THE LAKE SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable Thomas P. Stefaniak, Jr., Judge. Cause No. 45G04-0906-MR-6.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: P. JEFFREY SCHLESINGER, Appellate Public Defender, Crown Point, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, Attorney General of Indiana, JAMES B. MARTIN, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

BRADFORD, Judge. MATHIAS, J., and PYLE, J., concur.





On June 26, 2009, Appellant-Defendant Timothy J. Tkachik and Engelica Castillo were charged with one count of murder, two counts of Class A felony neglect of a dependent, Class A felony battery, and Class A misdemeanor false informing. Tkachik pled guilty to two counts of Class A felony neglect of a dependent. In exchange for Tkachik's guilty plea, Appellee-Plaintiff the State of Indiana agreed to dismiss the charges alleging that Tkachik committed murder, Class A felony battery, and Class A misdemeanor false informing. Pursuant to the terms of Tkachik's plea agreement, sentencing was left to the discretion of the trial court. The trial court subsequently sentenced Tkachik to concurrent terms of forty years. On appeal, Tkachik contends that the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing him. We affirm.


The facts and circumstances of this case, which were set out by the Indiana Supreme Court in Castillo's direct appeal, are as follows:

The dead body of two-year-old [J.J.] was recovered from a swampy body of water near LaPorte, Indiana, on June 24, 2009. At the time of her death, [J.J.] was staying with her mother's first cousin, Engelica Castillo, and Castillo's then-boyfriend, Timothy J. Tkachik.

[J.J.] was scheduled to stay there from June 8 through June 21 of 2009. The first few days of [J.J.]'s visit were relatively unremarkable. On the morning of June 12, [Castillo and Tkachik] discovered that [J.J.] had taken a packet of powdered Hawaiian Punch mix and strawberries out of their refrigerator without asking their permission. [Castillo] responded by yelling at and spanking the victim and then wrapping twine around the refrigerator later in the day. [Tkachik], who was present during nearly all of the events in question, testified that the rest of that day was uneventful. The next morning, on June 13, [Castillo] discovered that [J.J.] had locked herself in her bedroom. After unlocking the door, [Castillo] found that [J.J.] had made a mess on the bedroom floor with syrup and powdered Hawaiian Punch packets that [J.J.] had found in the kitchen. Again, [Castillo] yelled at and spanked [J.J.] and then cleaned up the mess, pushing [J.J.] aside roughly as she cleaned.

Later in the day, around lunchtime, [Castillo] gave [J.J.] a pre-packaged lunch to eat. [J.J.] did not eat much of it, mostly playing with the food and throwing pieces of it to the dog. This made [Castillo] angry. As punishment, [Castillo] put [J.J.] in a corner in [J.J.]'s bedroom and then, after cleaning the mess in the kitchen, sat on the couch with [Tkachik] in the living room. [Castillo] could see [J.J.] in her bedroom from the couch and, soon after sitting, noticed that [J.J.] was no longer standing but instead sitting down in the corner and playing with toys. [Castillo] then returned to the bedroom, spanked [J.J.], and attempted to force her to stand upright by yanking her and holding her upright by her arms. [Castillo] then went back to the living room and again sat on the couch. Approximately five minutes later, [Castillo] again became irritated with [J.J.] and returned to the bedroom. The facts are not clear as to what exactly occurred during this confrontation, but [Tkachik] testified that he could hear [Castillo] speaking in an irritated tone to [J.J.] when the door was closed and that, at one point when the door was open, he saw [Castillo] holding [J.J.] by the hair, poking her in the body, and slapping her. At one point during this confrontation, [Castillo] brought [J.J.] into the living room and, with [Tkachik]'s help, spanked [J.J.] several times on her bare bottom using a belt. Approximately one and one-half hours after this confrontation began, [Castillo] came out of [J.J.]'s bedroom and told [Tkachik] that [J.J.] had hit her head on a table in the bedroom when [Castillo] had slapped her. [Tkachik] testified that [J.J.] sustained a small cut above her right eye that bled only a small amount and that [Castillo] put a small bandage over it. He also testified that he noticed red marks on [J.J.]'s face and bruises on her buttocks around that same time.

Shortly after [J.J.] hit her head, [Tkachik] became frustrated by the ongoing confrontation between [J.J.] and [Castillo]. He ran into [J.J.]'s bedroom and "knuckled" [J.J.] in the head "pretty hard" four to six times "hoping that everything would stop after that." Tr. at 334-35. Afterward, [Castillo] continued to hold [J.J.] by the hair, yanking and pushing her, and eventually tied [J.J.] to a chair with [Tkachik]'s belts. She initially placed one belt around [J.J.]'s waist and another around her neck but removed the belt from around [J.J.]'s neck after [Tkachik] told her to do so. Still frustrated with the situation, [Tkachik] then went to the gas station. When he arrived home, he heard "boom, boom, boom, boom" coming from [J.J.]'s bedroom, but he couldn't see what was causing the noise because the bedroom door was shut. Tr. at 341. He then made plans to go to Chicago that evening to purchase heroin.

Approximately thirty minutes later, [Castillo] and [Tkachik] left for Chicago to retrieve the heroin. [Tkachik] testified that, while they were getting [J.J.] ready to leave, he noticed that [J.J.] had a bruise on her face, that she seemed "out of it," and that she was unable to hold her bottle while sitting in her carseat. Tr. at 344. [Castillo] wrapped [J.J.] in a blanket to hide the marks on her body because they were going to take a friend with them to Chicago. Shortly after leaving the house, while driving on Interstate 94, [Tkachik] noticed that [J.J.]'s head was leaning down towards her chest with her eyes closed. He then jumped in the back seat, found that she was not breathing, and attempted to administer CPR as [Castillo] pulled off the road. At that point, [Castillo] and [Tkachik] switched places, and [Castillo] continued CPR while [Tkachik] drove the truck back to their house. Once they arrived home, they stopped administering CPR and left [J.J.] in the backseat of the truck covered with a tarp. Sometime later, they set off for Chicago again, without [J.J.]. The precise timing of [J.J.]'s death is unclear, but both [Castillo] and [Tkachik] testified that she was dead when they returned from Chicago later that night.

Castillo v. State, 974 N.E.2d 458, 461, 463-65 (Ind. 2012). After Tkachik and Castillo returned from Chicago, they put J.J.'s body into garbage bags and left her ...

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