USA

Portage mom gets 20 years for neglect in death of 19-month-old daughter

A Portage woman whose toddler died after being shaken by her then-boyfriend was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday after a Porter County judge rejected an earlier plea agreement under which she would have served 30 years on probation.

Under the terms of the plea agreement accepted Friday by Porter Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clymer, Tamika Conley, 26, pleaded guilty to a felony count of neglect of a dependent and two felony counts of battery.

The charges are lower-level felonies than she initially faced in the death of her 19-month-old daughter, referred to as C.B. in court documents. The plea agreement also represents the dropping of three of the six felonies with which she was originally charged.

Conley was sentenced to 15 years in prison on the neglect count and three years each on the battery counts, with one year on one of the battery counts suspended and to be served on formal probation.

Additionally, Conley, who must serve 75% of her sentence, will pay $100 for a child abuse prevention fee and a no-contact order involving her two surviving children will remain in effect for the duration of her sentence. She also will receive credit for time served in the Porter County Jail, where she has remained since her arrest in July 2017, and must undergo a dual diagnosis evaluation and comply with recommended followup care.

Conley, appearing via videoconference because of the COVID-19 pandemic, confirmed under questioning by her attorney Marc Chargualaf that she knowingly placed C.B. in a situation that would endanger her life, and touched her other children, who were 4 and 6 at the time of C.B.‘s death, “in a rude, angry or insolent manner.”

The proceedings seemed to hit a snag when Clymer asked Conley whether the state could prove her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt if her case went to trial and she said, “I don’t know.”

Chargualaf told Conley he wasn’t asking her to divulge anything but rather discuss whether the case should go to trial. When he asked Conley if she would like that, she said, “no.”

Clymer agreed to accept the plea agreement because he said Conley’s two surviving children, who have since been adopted, will not be forced to testify.

Her ex-boyfriend, Gary Hanney, 32, plead guilty to a felony count of neglect of a dependent in C.B.‘s death.

Clymer sentenced Hanney in June to 30 years in prison with no time suspended.

The plea agreement for Conley, submitted Dec. 18, 2018, called for her to serve 30 years of probation on three felony counts of child neglect, which Clymer said during a hearing last month he found “too lenient for the alleged crime.”

According to court documents and testimony, Hanney injured C.B., who suffered abusive head trauma, the night of July 18, 2017, in the Portage mobile home he shared with the child, Conley and her two older children. Conley was working at a local strip club when the injuries occurred.

C.B. later died at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

Amy Lavalley is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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