from the Elkhart Circuit Court The Honorable Michael A.
Christofeno, Judge The Honorable Deborah Domine, Magistrate
Trial Court Cause No. 20C01-1508-JD-290
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Ellen H. Meilaender Supervising Deputy Attorney
General Indianapolis, Indiana
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Joel M. Schumm Appellate Clinic Indiana
University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Indianapolis,
Sharpnack, Senior Judge.
of the Case
The State filed a petition alleging that twelve-year-old J.T.
was a juvenile delinquent for committing an act that would
have been murder, a felony, if committed by an adult. The
State later moved the juvenile court to waive jurisdiction
over J.T. and transfer the case to criminal court. The court
denied the State's motion after an evidentiary hearing.
In this discretionary interlocutory appeal, the State asks
the Court to reverse the juvenile court's judgment. By
contrast, J.T. requests dismissal of the State's appeal.
We deny J.T.'s request to dismiss this appeal and affirm
the judgment of the juvenile court.
The State raises one issue, which we restate as: whether the
juvenile court abused its discretion in denying the
State's request to waive jurisdiction over J.T. On
cross-appeal, J.T. argues that the State has no authority to
seek discretionary interlocutory review of a juvenile
court's refusal to waive jurisdiction over a juvenile.
and Procedural History
As we describe the facts of this case, we keep in mind that
the juvenile court has not yet issued a final decision on the
merits. In July 2015, twelve-year-old J.T. lived with her
father, Edwin Torres; her stepmother, Maria
Torres; her half-sister; and her half-brother in
an apartment in Elkhart, Indiana. J.T. had displayed symptoms
of severe mental illness, and the symptoms intensified in
early 2015. She had poor grades at school, and she and Edwin
both later stated that she had suffered from headaches, had
difficulty sleeping, talked about hearing voices, and had
blackouts. J.T. talked less and spent increasing amounts of
time alone in her room. Several persons noted that J.T.
discussed hearing the voices of people named Star and Anna.
Star reportedly told J.T. to hurt people, while Anna told
J.T. to ignore Star. J.T. also sometimes told people her name
was Anna or Star. J.T. also displayed an obsession with a
cartoonish character named Laughing Jack, who was featured in
stories on websites. Laughing Jack, who dressed in black and
white and whose face was painted like a clown, was frequently
depicted using knives to commit murder.
J.T. repeatedly asked her mother, Dishay Hydorn-Patrick,
Edwin, and other relatives for help with her symptoms. She
also spoke with a school counselor, who urged Edwin to take
J.T. to a mental health professional. He instead took J.T. to
their family doctor. Later, several appointments were
scheduled with a counselor, but J.T. missed the appointments
because of insurance issues and because Edwin had undergone
back surgery and could not drive her to the counselor's
On the night of July 23, 2015, J.T. texted her friend J.P. to
arrange to meet at a nearby park at 10:00 p.m. that night.
J.T. texted in capital letters that she wanted to leave
tonight because she could not "take it anymore."
Tr. Vol. II, p. 141. She also said she was "about to
snap." Id. at 144. They discussed bringing
food, water and clothing. J.P. was aware of J.T.'s
alternate personas, and she later concluded she had been
texting with Star that night.
After communicating with J.P., J.T. interacted with Edwin and
Maria as they ate dinner and watched television. J.T.'s
half-sister had gone to bed, and J.T.'s half-brother was
not at home that night. Edwin was disturbed because J.T. kept
displaying a "big grin" "showing all her
teeth." Id. at 74. She also stood in a strange
posture, but she repeatedly insisted she was fine.
Later that night, Edwin and Maria heard a loud noise and
smelled smoke. Maria opened the door to J.T.'s bedroom,
and smoke poured out of the room into the hallway. J.T. was
standing in the middle of her room and did not respond to
Maria. Edwin entered the bedroom and saw a fire on the floor
and a bigger fire in the closet.
Meanwhile, Maria took J.T. out into the hallway. As Edwin
tried to put out the fires, he heard his wife scream that
J.T. had a knife. He entered the hallway and saw Maria
knocking on the door of J.T.'s half-sister's bedroom.
When she awoke and opened the door, she saw her mother,
Maria, standing there with blood on her clothes. Maria told
J.T.'s half-sister, "I'm dying call the
police." Id. at 57. She called 911.
Edwin found J.T. near the apartment's front door. She was
holding a knife and was standing in an unusual posture. He
looked into her eyes and "just didn't recognize
her." Id. at 76. Edwin told J.T. they needed to
leave, or they would all die in the fire. She told him to
stay back and not come closer, speaking in a
"clownish" tone of voice. Id. Edwin
approached J.T., and she started to swing at him with the
knife. He opened the door and struggled with her as they
moved into the hallway. Edwin disarmed J.T. and threw the
knife away, but J.T. escaped from him and ran out of the
apartment building. At that point, he realized he was
bleeding heavily from one arm.
Edwin reentered the smoke-filled apartment and found his
other daughter. She told him that she thought Maria was dead,
and they went outside.
Officer Daniel Mayer of the Elkhart Police Department was
dispatched to the apartment building to investigate the 911
call. Upon arriving at the scene, Officer Mayer and another
officer entered the building and noticed a large amount of
blood in the hallway. They followed a blood trail up a
staircase to the third floor. The officers found a knife in
the hallway near the door to J.T.'s apartment, from which
smoke was emanating. The smoke was so thick that Officer
Mayer retrieved a gas mask from his car to enter the
apartment. Other officers arrived and interviewed Edwin and
Firefighters arrived and searched the apartment. They found
Maria lying on the floor in one of the bedrooms and removed
her from the apartment. She was taken to a hospital, where
she was pronounced dead. The cause of Maria's death was
multiple stab wounds to her face and torso, including a
three-and three-quarter-inch deep stab wound to her chest.
Meanwhile, J.P. slipped out of her home and met J.T., as
previously arranged. J.T. had blood on her hands and clothes.
J.T. washed the blood off of her hands in a nearby waterway
and told J.P. she had started a fire and stabbed Maria and
Edwin. The two girls then walked along a railroad track and
left Elkhart. At some point, J.T. changed into clean clothes.
In the early morning hours of July 24, 2015, Zachary Sleeper
was awakened by a knock on his door. He encountered two
girls, later identified as J.T. and J.P. They asked for
something to eat, claiming they had been hiking with their
families and got lost. One of the girls was barefoot. Sleeper
was suspicious because there were no hiking trails in his
area. He offered to call their families, but the girls
avoided providing any information. Next, Sleeper asked them
to stay on the porch while he cooked something for them. He
called the police as he cooked, assuming the girls were
runaways. The police arrived and took them into custody.
The girls were carrying backpacks. The police looked in one
of the bags and found bloodstained pants. Several officers
questioned J.P., who told the police the pants belonged to
J.T. J.P. also told the officers that J.T. had exhibited
different personalities. J.T. was placed in the Elkhart
County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC).
On August 3, 2015, the State filed a Petition for Authority
to File Juvenile Delinquency Action and tendered a
Delinquency Petition. The Delinquency Petition alleged J.T. had
committed an act that would constitute murder, a felony, if
committed by an adult. On that same day, the juvenile court
authorized the State to file the Delinquency Petition. A
guardian ad litem (GAL), Elizabeth Bellin, was assigned to
J.T.'s case shortly after she was detained. GAL Bellin
filed an initial report with the juvenile court, detailing
J.T.'s symptoms of severe mental illness. On August 4,
2015, after reviewing the report, the court ordered the
Elkhart County Probation Department to investigate
alternative placements for J.T. The court further ordered
that J.T. be evaluated for mental illness.
Next, the court scheduled an initial hearing for August 7,
2015. During the initial hearing, the State informed the
juvenile court that the State "does not intend to seek a
waiver of juvenile jurisdiction" "at this
time." Appellant's App. Vol. II, p. 81.
On August 13, J.T. filed a motion to determine her competency
to participate in the proceedings. The juvenile court granted
the motion and appointed mental health professionals to
investigate J.T.'s mental state. Meanwhile, juvenile
probation employees researched secure residential locations,
other than the JDC, where J.T. could obtain more thorough
mental health treatment. The employees investigated several
private treatment centers and the state-run facilities owned
by the Indiana Family and Social Services
Administration's Division of Mental Health and Addiction
(DMHA), but they were unsuccessful in finding a placement for
On November 12, the juvenile court held an evidentiary
hearing as to J.T.'s competence. Two psychiatrists and
one psychologist opined that J.T. displayed symptoms
consistent with Dissociative Identity Disorder
(DID). All three further expressed opinions that
J.T. was not competent to participate in her defense. The
juvenile court concluded J.T. was "not competent to
stand trial and that she should be placed through
[DMHA]." Id. at 109. The court directed DMHA to
confine J.T. in "an appropriate psychiatric institution
until her competency is restored." Id. at 112.
The prosecutor did not object to the juvenile court's
determination, but on November 19, a deputy attorney general
sought to intervene in the case on behalf of the DMHA. DMHA
disputed the juvenile court's authority to order that
J.T. be placed in a state hospital. After an evidentiary
hearing, the juvenile court reaffirmed its order that J.T. be
placed in a DMHA facility.
On December 1, 2015, Elkhart County probation officers
transported J.T. to LaRue Carter Hospital (the Hospital), a
DMHA facility, for treatment. A substantial delay occurred
because the Hospital's staff indicated they had no
experience with returning juveniles to mental competence and
stated they were unsure it could be done. In the meantime,
the juvenile court held periodic review hearings on March 2,
2016, December 15, 2016, February 2, 2017, May 18, 2017, May
30, 2017, and June 27, 2017. As we discuss in more detail
below, J.T. showed some signs of improvement while she was at
the Hospital but still displayed symptoms associated with DID
On March 23, 2017, the juvenile court appointed two mental
health professionals to reassess J.T.'s competency to
participate in her own defense. The competency assessments
were delayed due to scheduling issues, but an assessment was
filed on September 6, 2017, stating that J.T. was competent
to stand trial. The court scheduled an evidentiary hearing to
determine J.T.'s competency on October 4, 2017.
On September 13, 2017, the State filed a motion for waiver of
juvenile court jurisdiction. After the October 4 hearing, the
court ordered an additional competency evaluation. On January
19, 2018, after receipt of the final competency evaluation,
the court determined J.T. was competent to participate in her
own defense and scheduled a hearing on the State's motion
to waive jurisdiction.
The juvenile court held an evidentiary hearing on the
State's waiver motion on April 23, 2018, May 31, 2018,
and June 1, 2018. On June 4, 2018, the court issued an order
denying the State's motion for waiver of jurisdiction.
The court determined the State had provided sufficient
evidence to meet the statutory elements of waiver by a
preponderance of the evidence, but that J.T. "has
demonstrated that it would be in the best interest of the
child and the safety and welfare of the community for [her]
to remain within the juvenile justice system. The child has
met her assigned burden of proof." Appellant's App.
Vol. III, p. 191.
The State moved the juvenile court to certify its June 4,
2018 order for discretionary interlocutory appeal. The court
granted the motion and stayed further proceedings in the
case, with the exception of determining placement of J.T.
pending resolution of her case. Next, the State petitioned
this Court to accept the interlocutory appeal. This
Court's motions panel granted the State's petition,
and this appeal followed. In the meantime, J.T. has been placed
at a secure residential facility in Ohio. The facility has a
therapist that specializes in treating DID. J.T.'s case
is subject to periodic review by the juvenile court.
Cross-Appeal - Interlocutory Appellate Jurisdiction
We first address J.T.'s cross-appeal claim. J.T. argues
that the State lacks the authority to seek interlocutory
review of the juvenile court's denial of the State's
motion to waive jurisdiction and asks this Court to dismiss
the State's appeal. Whether the State may appeal the
court's order is a question of law, which we review de
novo. State v. I.T., 4 N.E.3d 1139, 1142 (Ind.
It is well established that the State may appeal only when
authorized by statute. Id. Further, the State's
statutory right of appeal contravenes common law principles
and must be strictly construed. S ...