Kristi LaVanway, 24, of Plymouth, was sentenced Wednesday, December 23, in Marshall Superior Court No. 1 to 35 years imprisonment for the Level 1 felony of Neglect of a Dependent Resulting in Death. In open court, LaVanway admitted that on September 18, 2015, she neglected her injured daughter for almost three hours before seeking medical attention. In the end, it was that callous disregard for her child’s health and safety that led Judge Robert O. Bowen to consider it as an aggravating circumstance and add five years of imprisonment to the statutory presumptive sentence, giving LaVanway a total sentence of 35 years imprisonment at the Indiana Department of Corrections.
The sentencing hearing in Superior Court No. 1 lasted more than an hour and a half with the State presenting pictures of Serenity’s autopsy and of the hotel room at the Economy Lodge where she lived with her mother and Shane Weedling. Detective Leo Mangus testified extensively as to his investigation and the various statements LaVanway gave regarding how Serenity was injured. At least three versions of the events were told until LaVanway began to describe Weedling’s role in the events.
LaVanway did admit that she arrived to the hotel room to an unconscious Serenity at approximately 11:20 a.m. Medical records show Serenity was not brought to the emergency room of St. Joseph Regional Medical Center until approximately 2:30 p.m. From there she was flown by helicopter to Ft. Wayne Lutheran Hospital where she died the next day.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tami Napier presented the evidence and gave an eloquent argument for an aggravated sentence beyond the presumptive term. Defense counsel Jeff Houin argued for a minimum sentence of 20 years. Judge Bowen sided with the State on the issues of aggravation and sentenced LaVanway to the 35 year term.
Prosecuting Attorney Nelson Chipman after the hearing said in televised interviews that the 35 year sentence was justified by the totality of the evidence, and that he was satisfied that to the extent humanly possible, justice has meted out to Serenity’s mother. He pointed out that under the new criminal code, a person sentenced under the major felonies must serve 75% of the time, instead of the previous day for day served.
Shane Weedling remains incarcerated in the Marshall County Jail awaiting trial by jury which is scheduled for May 10, 2016. Weedling faces charges of murder, aggravated battery, neglect of a dependent resulting in the death, and possession of marijuana.