Shanna Vorndran believed what her boyfriend told her. She believed what her boyfriend’s sister told her. And for the few weeks she lived with the pair, she believed their explanations for how her children were injured.
On Tuesday, she was sentenced to prison for neglecting those children, for failing to intervene or discern the true nature of what was happening to them.
Vorndran, 25, pleaded guilty in January to the two Class B felony charges of neglect of a dependent. But her sentencing was postponed until she testified against her ex-boyfriend, Michael Combs, 27.
Combs was convicted last month of multiple counts, including child molesting, battery and neglect of a dependent. Also convicted in the case is Combs’ sister, Anna Hogan, 31, who was sentenced last month to a suspended prison sentence on charges of neglect. She also testified against Combs as part of a plea agreement.
Vorndran’s attorney, Anthony Churchward, argued that his client’s compliance with all the family court asked of her after her children were removed from her care should have helped keep her out of prison.
Vorndran, who worked full time as a manager of a fast-food restaurant at the time of her arrest, had no criminal history other than these charges.
Churchward said he looked into the possibility of home detention for Vorndran, in lieu of the Department of Correction, but no member of her family was willing to comply with the terms and conditions of the program and allow her to live there.
Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull accepted Vorndran’s guilty plea and sentenced her to 10 years on each charge of neglect of a dependent, to be served one after the other. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Vorndran’s time behind bars is capped at six years, so Gull ordered four years of each sentence suspended with two years’ probation.
The three adults lived in a house in the 900 block of West Washington Boulevard, along with Hogan’s children and Vorndran’s.
After just a few weeks of living together, Vorndran’s children suffered multiple injuries including bruises, broken bones, and sexual abuse that will require long-term care.
The 2-year-old showed no evidence of sexual or physical abuse when he was examined by a doctor in August 2010, about three weeks before he was moved to foster care, according to court documents.
Vorndran told investigators she left her children with Combs when she went to work on seven occasions in early to mid-September 2010, according to court documents.
When she asked Hogan or Combs about the bruises she noticed on her two children, Hogan or Combs told her that something happened or they fell, according to court documents.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Vorndran tearfully apologized.
I have learned a lot, she said. I am truly sorry.
Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Patricia Pikel argued that Vorndran continued to minimize her role in the abuse when she was interviewed for the pre-sentence investigation report, saying only she trusted the wrong people to baby-sit her kids.
Gull reacted to Vorndran’s version of events in the report.
When I read your version, I thought, Are you kidding me, lady?’ Gull said, looking at Vorndran. These were your kids. It’s your job to protect them.
Gull said jurors wept during the trial when they heard details of the injuries suffered by the children at Combs’ hands.
I don’t know if you get it yet, Gull said. I really don’t know.