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Sorenson v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 10, 2019

Bruce A. Sorenson, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Rush Circuit Court Trial Court Cause No. 70C01-1602-FA-134 The Honorable David E. Northam, Judge.

          Attorney for Appellant Cara Schaefer Wieneke Wieneke Law Office, LLC Brooklyn, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Evan Matthew Comer Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Najam, Judge.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] Bruce A. Sorenson appeals one of his fourteen convictions and his 590-year aggregate sentence after he sexually assaulted two of his daughters nearly every day from the time they were in diapers to their mid-teens and also sexually assaulted one of their childhood friends. He raises the following three issues for our review:

1. Whether the State presented sufficient evidence to show that Sorenson committed sexual misconduct with a minor, as alleged in Count 11.
2. Whether the trial court erred when it determined that Sorenson was a credit-restricted felon and, as such, that he can earn only one day of good-time credit for every six days served.
3. Whether his 590-year sentence is inappropriate in light of the nature of the offenses and his character.

         [¶2] We reverse Sorenson's conviction under Count 11, the twenty-year sentence that was imposed on Count 11, and the trial court's application of the incorrect credit-time statutes against all of Sorenson's sentences except his sentence on Count 3. As for the balance of Sorenson's sentence, 570 years executed, we cannot say that it is inappropriate in light of the nature of the offenses and Sorenson's character.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] When he was twenty-seven years old in March of 1995, Sorenson became the father of his first daughter, T.S. Eighteen months later, in September of 1996, he became the father of his second daughter, J.S. Sorenson, the two daughters, and the rest of the family lived in Rushville, initially on First Street but later, in the early 2000s, they moved to Third Street.

         T.S.

         [¶4] When T.S. "was in diapers," she would later recall, Sorenson "th[rew] off" her diaper in her "parent's bedroom" at the First Street house. Tr. Vol. 3 at 89-90. T.S. "remember[e]d it very vividly": the diaper "smacked against the wall between the dresser and the closet, and then [Sorenson] molested [her]" by inserting his penis into her anus. Id. at 91. "[T]here [we]re other times" that she also remembered in that bedroom, such as a time when he "would have [her] on his waterbed and . . . they had a headboard that had a mirror and . . . cubbies . . . and if [she] ever picked [her] head up he would shove [her] head back down in the pillow" because "he obviously didn't want [her] to see" that he was "[h]aving sex with [her] anally." Id.

         [¶5] Sorenson also molested T.S. in the bathroom at the First Street house. He "would have [T.S.] bend over the toilet and he would molest [her] anally, and . . . the same with [her] bedroom." Id. at 92. Sorenson would also "threaten [T.S.] if [she] didn't stop crying" or tell her that "he was go[ing to] go and get [J.S.] and do it to [her] instead . . . ." Id. Although T.S. could not recall a specific number of times Sorenson had molested her at the First Street house, she "used to think that the amount [of] freckles [she] had on [her] face and [her] body was the amount of times [Sorenson had] molested" her there. Id. at 91.

         [¶6] The molestations continued after the family had moved to the Third Street house. Sorenson would "sneak[] into [her] bedroom at night" and sodomize T.S. in her bunk bed. Id. at 93. He "would take [her] into the bathroom and . . . have [her] lean over the toilet or the bathtub" to "have sex with [her] anally." Id. He would have her put a towel down on his bed, "lean [her] over the side of the bed[, ] and . . . have sex with [her] anally" there. Id. at 94. At least once, T.S. "wouldn't stop crying" during Sorenson's molestation of her, and he "punched her in the back," which "hurt." Id. Sorenson's attacks on T.S. gave her hemorrhoids on at least one occasion and made defecation difficult for her.

         [¶7] Around 2006 or 2007, while at the house of a family friend, Sorenson attempted to sodomize T.S. but T.S. "begged him to vaginally molest [her] instead of anally" because "it hurt less." Id. at 96. Although she later could not recall another specific instance of Sorenson molesting her vaginally, she "assum[ed] it [had] happened" because, even though she was only eleven or twelve during the incident at the friend's house, she knew "it didn't hurt as bad when it was vaginal as when it was anal." Id. Sorenson told T.S. to never tell anyone of the molestations or he would hurt T.S.'s mother, sister, or himself. Around the time T.S. turned fifteen years old, Sorenson stopped molesting her.

         J.S.

         [¶8] J.S. lived at the First Street house until she was about four years old. Although very young at the time, J.S. later would be able to recall at least two occasions at the First Street house in which Sorenson had molested her. In particular, she remembered that, on one occasion, Sorenson had called her into his bedroom, exposed her to pornography on a television in the room, and then "bent [her] over the bed" such that she was "face down" on the bed "faced toward the wall." Id. at 47. Sorenson then anally penetrated J.S. with his penis.

         [¶9] On a separate occasion, J.S. and T.S. "ran into" their parent's bedroom late at night because "it was thundering." Id. at 48. Their mother was in the bed, but Sorenson "sent mom to the store to get something." Id. Once she had left, Sorenson sodomized J.S. In doing so, he told her that, "if [she] was good," she would get a "lunchable" treat later. Id.

         [¶10] One day after the family had moved to the Third Street home, Sorenson took J.S. to the grocery store. But they did not go back to the family home afterward. Instead, Sorenson took J.S. to a grandmother's house in Rushville. As soon as they were through the threshold of the grandmother's house, Sorenson "just bent [J.S.] over right there and did anal penetration" with his penis. Id. at 49. On another occasion at a grandmother's house, Sorenson sodomized J.S. using some leftover "bacon grease as lubrication." Id. at 61.

         [¶11] J.S. lived at the Third Street home with Sorenson for about ten years. During that time, Sorenson sodomized J.S. "[j]ust about every day." Id. at 51-52. On one occasion, J.S. was lying down on her bed when her mother and T.S. "went to the store to go get dinner." Id. at 54. Once they were gone, Sorenson "came in the bedroom and . . . took [J.S.] to the bathroom," where he anally penetrated her. Id. at 54-55. He then "sent [her] back to the bedroom to act like [she] was still l[ying] down" when her mother and T.S. returned. Id. at 55.

         [¶12] But most of Sorenson's abuse of J.S. at the Third Street home occurred in Sorenson's bedroom. "[I]t was always anal penetration." Id. at 56. J.S. was nearly always "bent over[] on the bed," with her feet only "kind of touching the floor" but "not so much" given her size. Id. During the abuse, Sorenson would "always watch out the window . . . to see if mom would show up." Id. J.S. could sometimes tell when Sorenson was about to molest her based on "[t]he way he would look" at her, which was like

when you haven't [eaten] for a whole day, and you get home from work, and you have this plate set down in front of you, and you feel your stomach growling, and your mouth starts watering; you get that look in your eyes . . . . [H]e had that same look.

Id. at 59.

         [¶13] During one of Sorenson's last molestations of J.S., around the time she was fourteen or slightly older, J.S. remembered a younger sibling being in her parent's bedroom "in a bouncy seat." Id. at 57. J.S. remembered "seeing her . . . little sister's face" during the molestation. Id. J.S. felt "broke[n]" in that moment and resolved that she did not "want that to happen" to her little sister. Id. at 57-58. J.S. then tried to tell her mother about the molestations, but her mother "didn't have a reaction like [J.S.] expected. She was too calm about it. It was like she already knew." Id. at 58. J.S.'s mother also "tr[ied] to talk [J.S.] out of" going to the police. Id. J.S. then began telling Sorenson "no" when he would try to molest her, and the molestations ceased. Id. at 59, 67.

         C.N.

         [¶14] While living at the Third Street house, J.S. was friends with C.N., a girl who also lived on Third Street in Rushville and was a few months younger than J.S. C.N. stayed the night at the Sorensons' Third Street house on two occasions. On both occasions, Sorenson molested her.

         [¶15] The first time it happened, C.N. remembered "w[aking] up to [her] pants down" and Sorenson "going inside [her] . . . vagina" with "[h]is penis." Id. at 78. C.N. was about eight years old at the time. She was lying "[o]n [her] side, facing the wall" in J.S.'s bedroom, and could see "toys and clothes and the wall." Id. When Sorenson finished, he told her, "Oh, I thought you were my wife." Id. at 80. He then walked away and C.N. put her clothes back on. The second incident was nearly identical to the first.

         [¶16] On a separate occasion about one year later, C.N. went camping with J.S. and her family. T.S., J.S., and C.N. all went inside a nearby barn and then up into the barn loft. Sorenson followed the girls there and then molested all three of them. He "took [C.N.'s] pants down, bent [her] over," and vaginally penetrated her with his penis. Id. at 81. He then anally penetrated his daughters. Sorenson then "just walked away" and "went back to the campsite." Id. at 82.

         Criminal Proceedings

         [¶17] Around February of 2016, J.S., now nineteen years old, went to the Rushville Police Department to report Sorenson's molestations of her, T.S., and C.N. Officers contacted T.S. and C.N., who ...


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