FORT WAYNE – The victims at the center of a child abuse case that ended Friday didn’t offer a word on their own behalf.
They were not in Allen Superior Court when Judge Fran Gull sentenced their abuser, Michael A. Combs, 27, to 61 1/2 years on charges of child molesting, battery and two counts of neglect of a dependent.
At ages 3 and 4, the two boys are still too young to speak for themselves, and when they were abused in the late summer of 2010, they were so small and vulnerable that a Fort Wayne Police detective who handled the case spoke for them during the hearing.
Detective Sandon Quate said he’d investigated child abuse cases that ended with fatalities, but there was something about these two little boys, ages 15 months and 2, that stuck with him for the past few years.
He said he sought permission from the boys’ families to speak for them. No one else was present in the courtroom from their families.
Both those boys went through hell, Quate said, adding he saw nothing but pure arrogance from Combs throughout the case.
Last month, a jury convicted Combs of all the charges against him. Also charged in the case were his then-girlfriend, Shanna Vorndran, 25, and his sister, Anna Hogan, 31.
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.
An investigation began when the youngest boy was taken to a hospital with a spiral leg fracture and inconsistent stories about how the injury occurred. When caseworkers with the Department of Child Services removed the children, the 2-year-old had more than 70 bruises on his body, had recent evidence of a sexual assault and showed no emotion, according to testimony and court documents.
Combs sat throughout the hearing with his head down, crying. His mother, Kathy Holland, asked the judge for leniency, saying her son was raised to be a good boy.
Your honor, don’t take him away too long, she said, sobbing.
When it was his turn to speak, Combs offered no apology for the injuries suffered by the boys, or for failing to provide assistance to them. He again asserted his innocence, saying he never hurt anyone in his life.
I’m not the monster they try to make me out to be, he said. I never have been. I didn’t hurt these boys. Not at all.
But Gull said that even as Combs tried to distance himself from the abuse, he could not escape the fact that he was responsible for those children, having assumed the role of a caretaker while Vorndran was working.
These were helpless, helpless little children, she said. I’d like to know what was going on in that house. All the adults were completely indifferent to what these little guys were going through.
She sentenced Combs to 40 years on the child molesting charge, 10 years on each of the neglect charges and 1 1/2 years on the battery. She ordered all the sentences to be served consecutively.
Combs will serve the majority of the 40 years for the child molesting charge because that charge does not allow inmates to accrue credit for time served at the same rate as other offenses, which is one day of credit for each day served.
Vorndran was sentenced to six years in prison earlier this month on charges of neglect. Hogan was given a suspended prison sentence on charges of neglect.