from the Lake Superior Court, Criminal Division IV Trial
Court Cause No. 45G04-1607-F1-0006 The Honorable Samuel L.
Attorney for Appellant P. Jeffrey Schlesinger Office of the
Public Defender Crown Point, IN
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Michael Gene Worden Deputy Attorney General
Vaidik, Chief Judge.
Katherine Shuwan Holmes was sentenced to an aggregate term of
forty years for one count of Level 1 felony neglect of a
dependent resulting in death and five counts of Level 6
felony neglect of a dependent. She now appeals, arguing that
the trial court erred by not recognizing three mitigators and
that her sentence is inappropriate. We affirm her sentence.
and Procedural History
The facts, as taken mostly from the stipulated factual basis,
show that Holmes is the mother of all six victims in this
case. In 2016, Holmes, Jarod McMillan (the father of
Holmes's three youngest children), Holmes's brother,
and Holmes's six children lived in a one-bedroom
apartment in Gary. On March 31, 2016, twenty-seven-year-old
Holmes gave birth to K.M., the youngest of her six children.
K.M. was 5 pounds, 5 ounces at birth. Holmes and K.M. were
discharged from the hospital on April 2, with orders to
follow-up with Dr. Hoess, a pediatrician, in 5-7 days.
Holmes, however, did not take K.M. to the pediatrician as
instructed. Instead, Holmes took K.M. to the pediatrician
about two weeks later, on April 21. At the appointment, Dr.
Hoess noted K.M.'s low weight and sent them home with
specific feeding instructions. Dr. Hoess said that if K.M.
did not gain any weight by the next day, she would admit him
to the hospital. When Holmes and K.M. returned to the
pediatrician the next day, K.M. had gained 4 ounces. Dr.
Hoess told Holmes to continue feeding K.M. As instructed and
to return on April 26. Holmes, however, did not return for
Over two months later, on Friday, July 1, Holmes spoke with
Dr. Hoess on the phone and said that K.M. was again not
gaining any weight. Dr. Hoess told Holmes to bring K.M. to
the clinic on Tuesday, July 5 and to take him to the
emergency room if he had any problems in the meantime.
Holmes did not take K.M. to the emergency room over the
weekend, nor did she take him to the clinic on July 5.
Instead, on July 5, Holmes and McMillan left their apartment
around 10:00 a.m. and returned home around 4:30 p.m., at
which point they found K.M. unresponsive. K.M. was taken by
ambulance to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead at
5:37 p.m. K.M., who was three months old, weighed just 5.9
pounds. According to medical records, K.M. appeared to be
neglected, he had no body fat, his groin and perineum were
burned (mostly likely from urine), and he was covered in
dirt. The cause of death was malnutrition and dehydration.
In addition, the apartment in which Holmes, McMillan,
Holmes's brother, and the six children lived was roach,
flea, and bedbug infested, and there was garbage littered
throughout it. There was not a single bed in the apartment.
When DCS removed Holmes's other children a few days
later, they "reeked of a foul odor and were all in need
of baths." Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 53.
The State charged Holmes with one count (Count I) of Level 1
felony neglect of a dependent resulting in death (K.M.) and
seven counts (Counts II-VIII) of Level 6 felony neglect of a
dependent (two counts for K.M. and one count for each of the
other five children). In March 2017, Holmes and the State
entered into a plea agreement. Id. at 48. Holmes
agreed to plead guilty to all of the charges. In addition,
the parties agreed that they were "free to fully argue
their respective positions as to the sentence to be imposed
by the Court" and that the sentence for Count I would
run concurrent to the sentences for Counts II-VIII.
Id. at 49. The parties also stipulated to a factual
basis. Id. at 50, 52-53. The court found that a
factual basis existed and set the matter for sentencing.
At the April 2017 sentencing hearing, the State admitted
twenty-eight photographs into evidence. Some of the
photographs depicted the condition of Holmes's apartment
when the children were removed, but most of them showed
K.M.'s body. See Exs. 16-28. In short, the
photographs are "disturbing." Sent. Tr. p. 5. A
homicide detective with the Lake County Sheriff's
Department saw K.M. at the hospital and described the
photographs at the hearing. For example, one of the
photographs showed K.M.'s diaper, which had fungus
growing in it. Other photographs showed fungus growing under
K.M.'s armpits and dirt underneath his fingernails. The
more disturbing photographs showed K.M.'s sunken and
discolored stomach and his skin "removed all the way
down to the muscle" in his groin and buttocks areas,
including skin "missing from the edge of his phallic
area." Id. at 30, 31. In addition, the
detective said that he spoke with the pathologist, who said
that K.M. likely died 12-16 hours before he was taken to the
hospital "due to the discoloration of his stomach noting
that he had already begun to decay." Id. at 32.
Holmes's aunt testified that Holmes grew up in
"deplorable conditions" and compared the conditions
Holmes grew up in to those of her apartment. Id. at
39. Holmes's aunt also testified that Holmes had
completed schooling to be a certified nursing assistant
(CNA); however, she had not received her license and was
working two jobs-at "JJ Fish" and Rally's.
Id. at 42, 52; Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 90
(PSI). Finally, Holmes testified as follows:
This has been very hard. And I hate myself every day because
of this. I love my kids with everything in me, despite of
what happened. All six of them I love, because they are all I
have in this world. Because I knew that they loved me.
That's all I got. Now, I probably will never see them
And I'm sorry. I thought I was trying my best and I know
it was bad, but I was trying to make it better. This is not
something I intentionally did. I didn't intentionally try
to hurt my baby, because I loved him just as much as I loved
my other kids. I just don't want to lose my relationship
with . . . my other five kids. I don't want them to think
that their momma just didn't care about them, because of
what anybody might say. ...