from the Ripley Circuit Court The Honorable Ryan King, Judge
Trial Court Cause No. 69C01-1607-MR-001
Attorney for Appellant Leanna Weissmann Lawrenceburg,
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr., Attorney General
of Indiana J.T. Whitehead Deputy Attorney General
Vaidik, Chief Judge.
Jennifer Schooler was convicted of murder and Level 6 felony
neglect of a dependent for killing her boyfriend's
three-year-old son and failing to seek medical treatment for
him, and the trial court sentenced her to maximum and
consecutive sentences. Schooler now appeals, arguing that the
evidence is insufficient to prove that she is the one who
caused the three-year-old's fatal brain injuries and that
her sentence is inappropriate. Concluding that the evidence
is sufficient to show that Schooler is the one who inflicted
the three-year-old's fatal brain injuries and that her
sentence is not inappropriate, we affirm.
and Procedural History
The evidence most favorable to the verdicts is that in August
2015, Schooler and Thomas Chadwell were dating and lived
together in an apartment in Batesville along with
Chadwell's children, three-year-old Bradyn and
ten-year-old Cheyenne. The children's mother, Amanda
Chadwell, was incarcerated on theft and burglary charges in
Carroll County, Kentucky, where she had been since May 14,
2015. Chadwell worked five to seven days a week at a factory
in Greensburg, and Schooler watched the children,
particularly Bradyn, who was not yet in school, while
Chadwell worked. According to Schooler, she took care of
Bradyn and Cheyenne "twenty-four-seven." Tr. Vol.
III p. 46.
Wednesday, August 12 was a school day for Cheyenne. When she
woke up that day, Bradyn was already playing with his blocks.
As Cheyenne walked outside to wait for the bus, she told
Bradyn, "Bye, I love you bubby." Tr. Vol. IV p. 61.
Bradyn responded, "Bye, Shine, " which was what he
called Cheyenne because he could not say her name.
Id. According to Cheyenne, there was nothing
"out of the ordinary" or "weird" with
Bradyn when she left. Id. She then got on the bus
and went to school "like every other day."
Schooler, Chadwell, and Bradyn were all home together until
1:00 p.m., when Chadwell left for work. Beginning at 1:19
p.m., Schooler called Chadwell several times; the phone calls
between them totaled about nine minutes. Tr. Vol. III p. 153.
Schooler called 911 at 1:34 p.m.
According to the 911 call, Schooler reported that there was a
three-year-old "not breathing" on "the bedroom
floor." Exs. 6 (transcript of 911 call) & 11
(recording of 911 call); Tr. Vol. III pp. 237-38. Schooler
initially told the 911 dispatcher that she "just got
[Bradyn] out of bed." Exs. 6 & 11; Tr. Vol. III p.
238. Schooler then said that Bradyn "hit his head on
the, on the side of the dr-dresser, er, the fish tank
thing" and went unresponsive. Exs. 6 & 11; Tr. Vol.
III p. 239. The 911 dispatcher told Schooler to perform CPR
and provided step-by-step instructions. In the meantime, at
1:35 p.m., Ripley County EMS received a call about "a
three year old child not breathing." Tr. Vol. II p. 228.
Paramedic April Jarrett and her partner (who was an EMT)
arrived at the apartment at 1:38 p.m. Because of the nature
of the call, a second paramedic in a chase truck also
responded. Schooler was still on the phone with the 911
dispatcher counting chest compressions out loud when EMS
arrived, and she can be overhead telling EMS that Bradyn was
talking "[a] few minutes ago" and then "he
just fell over." Exs. 6 & 11; Tr. Vol. III p. 241.
When EMS asked Schooler about Bradyn's history, she
responded that "his mother is in jail for child
abuse" and mentioned that his mother had a "metal
paddle in the car." Exs. 6 & 11; Tr. Vol. III pp.
241-42. Schooler then elaborated that Bradyn's mother had
custody of him "since birth" and that they just got
Bradyn from her "[y]esterday." Exs. 6 & 11; Tr.
Vol. III p. 242. She said that Bradyn was
"dehydrated" when they got him. Id. EMS
asked Schooler if Bradyn had the bruises on his face
"whenever he c[a]me back from mom, " and Schooler
responded yes. Id. Finally, EMS asked Schooler if
Bradyn fell "today, " and Schooler responded,
"No, when [Bradyn's mother] had him."
According to Jarrett, when she first walked into the
apartment, she saw "[Bradyn] laying on the floor"
in the living-room area (not the bedroom, like Schooler
reported in the 911 call) about ten steps from the front door
and Schooler "kneeling next to him." Tr. Vol. II p.
230. Schooler was not performing CPR, although she was
counting chest compressions out loud on the phone to the 911
dispatcher at that time. Tr. Vol. III pp. 6-7; see
also Exs. 6 & 11 (Schooler counting out loud to the
911 operator as EMS entered the apartment and continuing to
count after EMS entered). Jarrett immediately felt for a
pulse on Bradyn. Finding none, the first responders started
chest compressions to start his heart and used an "ambu
bag" to get air into his lungs. Tr. Vol. II p. 232.
Jarrett noted that Bradyn was "[b]lue-ish-gray" and
had bruising on his face. Id. Jarrett asked Schooler
what happened to Bradyn, and Schooler said that Bradyn had
been "acting fine and was running around and
playing." Id. However, he "hit his head on
[the] fish tank about 15 minutes before [be]coming
unresponsive." Id. at 233. Jarrett asked
Schooler where Bradyn got the bruises, and Schooler responded
that Bradyn had the bruises when they got him from his mother
the Friday before (five days earlier). Id. at 239;
Tr. Vol. III pp. 2-3.
After extensive medical interventions by EMS, including
delivering two doses of epinephrine directly into
Bradyn's bone marrow, Bradyn finally had a pulse,
although he still was not breathing on his own. EMS
transported Bradyn to Margaret Mary Hospital in Batesville,
arriving at 1:54 p.m. After a short stay at this hospital,
EMS transferred Bradyn to the high school, where a helicopter
picked him up at 2:17 p.m. to take him to Cincinnati
Children's Hospital. During her treatment of Bradyn, when
he was wearing only a diaper, Jarrett observed the following
injuries to him: bruising on both cheeks resembling the
shapes of fingers, a scratch above his left eye, a large
bruise to his right eye, large bruises (yellow in color) to
his left upper arm, bruising to the top inner thighs that
were in varying stages of healing, a bruise the size of a
silver dollar below his left shoulder blade, a bruise to his
right lower flank area, and bruising to his upper center
chest. Tr. Vol. III p. 2.
Because of the seriousness of the 911 call, all available
Batesville Police Department officers responded to the
apartment, including Chief of Police Stanley Holt and
Detective Blake Roope. Detective Roope then went to Margaret
Mary Hospital, where he spoke with Schooler "within [an]
hour of the 911 call" "while the details of that
day [were] fresh in her mind." Id. at 25.
During the interview, Schooler told Detective Roope that she
was Bradyn's "primary caretaker." Id.
at 29. She said that Bradyn woke up around 10 a.m., at which
point she made him breakfast, an egg sandwich. She said there
was "nothing out of the ordinary" with Bradyn that
morning. Id. at 31. Schooler said that Chadwell left
for work at 1:00 p.m. and that about forty minutes after
Chadwell left, Bradyn was chasing the cat when he tripped,
fell, and hit the corner of his left eye on "the bottom
left corner" of the fish-tank stand. Id. at 43.
Schooler said that Bradyn got a small scratch on the corner
of his left eye, which bled "a little."
Id. at 36. She asked Bradyn if he was okay, and he
nodded yes. However, about thirty minutes after the fall,
Schooler said that Bradyn was sitting on the floor in the
living-room area playing with the cat when he "slumped
to his left side" with his eyes open. Id. at
38. She then laid him flat on his back. According to
Schooler, she then called Chadwell to tell him that Bradyn
had fallen and hit the fish-tank stand and that
"something was wrong with [him]." Id. at
39. Schooler said that she spoke with Chadwell for "six
seconds" and that he told her to call 911, which she
immediately did. Id. at 40.
Schooler also told Detective Roope about another injury to
Bradyn. That is, a "couple of weeks" ago, Cheyenne
accidentally knocked Bradyn over, causing him to hit the back
of his head against a "floor heater" in the
bedroom. Id. at 44. Schooler checked Bradyn's
head but found "nothing." Id. According to
Schooler, these were the only two accidents that could have
Detective Roope then asked Schooler if she had ever spanked
Bradyn, and she claimed that she had "never"
spanked Bradyn-or any child for that matter- and specifically
noted that Bradyn "was not a discipline issue."
Id. at 47. She also said that she had never seen
Chadwell spank Bradyn either. When Detective Roope inquired
about the bruises on Bradyn's body, Schooler responded
that Bradyn had been injured (including a bite to his finger
and a playground incident that resulted in a bruise to the
left side of his forehead) while he was in the care of his
mother, Amanda, and that Bradyn had these injuries when she
and Chadwell got Bradyn from Amanda "two months"
ago. Id. at 49. Detective Roope asked Schooler if
she reported the injuries to the Department of Child
Services, and Schooler said yes. However, Schooler could not
remember the caseworker's name. Upon further questioning
about the alleged DCS report, Schooler's timeline
suddenly "shifted, " and she claimed that they got
Bradyn from Amanda two weeks ago (not two months).
Id. at 50. Detective Roope later ...