Thomas E. Stettler, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.
from the Delaware Circuit Court, The Honorable Linda Ralu
Wolf, Judge, Trial Court Cause No. 18C03-1212-FB-52
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Ana M. Quirk Muncie, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana J.T. Whitehead Deputy Attorney General
After a jury trial, Thomas E. Stettler ("Stettler")
was convicted of Child Molesting, as a Class B
felony. He now appeals.
Stettler raises two issues for our review, which we restate
I. Whether the trial court abused its discretion in admitting
testimony of Stettler's victim concerning his prior
conduct toward her under Ind. Evidence Rule 404(b); and
II. Whether the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct in
closing argument rising to the level of fundamental error.
and Procedural History
In 2012, Stettler, then eighteen years old, lived in a house
in Muncie with his mother, his fiancée, and their
infant son. In prior years, Stettler and his mother had
shared a house with numerous relatives, including S.Y.;
S.Y.'s sister, C.Y.; and their mother.
On the evening of Friday, October 26, 2012, Stettler's
mother invited S.Y., then twelve years old, and C.Y. to visit
and to go with the family to a Halloween-themed corn maze.
Because of some prior interactions with Stettler, S.Y. was
somewhat hesitant to go, but eventually S.Y. and C.Y. went to
On either that Friday or the following Saturday, the group
went to the corn maze. They left the maze late in the
evening, and S.Y. and C.Y. decided to sleep on the couch at
Stettler's home. The two laid down side by side, each
with her head at an opposite end of the couch, with S.Y.
lying closer to the front edge of the couch.
At some point during the night, Stettler left the room he
shared with his fiancée and child, and came into the
living room where S.Y. and C.Y. were sleeping. After briefly
standing over the couch and looking at S.Y., Stettler sat
down in a chair immediately next to the couch. Stettler then
pulled down S.Y.'s pants and put his penis into
S.Y.'s "butt." (Tr. Vol. 2 at 89.) He also
moved S.Y. and put his penis into her mouth. S.Y. pretended
to be asleep during this, and Stettler stopped when S.Y.
C.Y. had awoken briefly during the night and had seen
Stettler come into the living room and look down at S.Y., but
went back to sleep soon afterward. After the girls returned
home on the following Sunday, S.Y. told C.Y. about what had
happened that Friday. S.Y. then told her mother that she did
not want to go back to Stettler's house. When S.Y.'s
mother asked why, S.Y. "told her that [Stettler] was
raping me." (Tr. Vol. 2 at 94.)
A police investigation ensued. Police interviewed Stettler