Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Preble
APPEAL FROM PREBLE COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No.
P. Votel, Preble County Court of Common Pleas, Valerie
Sargent-Wood, Preble County Courthouse, 101 East Main Street,
Eaton, Ohio 45320, for plaintiff-appellee
Muenchenbach Law Office, LLC, Brian A. Muenchenbach, 309
North Barron Street, Eaton, Ohio 45320, for
1} Defendant-appellant, Christy Lynn Warwick,
appeals from the sentence she received in the Preble County
Court of Common Pleas following her guilty plea to
endangering children and involuntary manslaughter. For the
reasons set forth below, we affirm her sentence.
2} In May 2016, appellant was arrested and indicted
on one count of endangering children in violation of R.C.
2919.22(A), a felony of the third degree, and one count of
involuntary manslaughter in violation of R.C. 2903.04(A), a
felony of the first degree. The charges arose out of the
death of appellant's infant son, Sylas, who was 21 months
old at the time of his death on December 14, 2015.
3} Sylas was born drug dependent in February 2014,
as a result of appellant's ongoing drug abuse. At the
time of his birth, Sylas was removed from appellant's
care by Children Services and placed in a foster home. In May
2015, Sylas was returned to appellant's care, and in
September 2015, Children Services closed its case involving
Sylas and appellant. Less than three months later, on
December 13, 2015, Sylas was transported by an ambulance to a
Preble County emergency room after appellant called 9-1-1
upon finding Sylas unresponsive in her home. Sylas was then
careflighted to Dayton Children's Hospital, where he was
determined to be nonresponsive and in a vegetative state. He
was malnourished, had significant head trauma, and his body
was covered with bruises and burn marks. Sylas died shortly
after being admitted to Dayton Children's Hospital.
4} On October 24, 2016, appellant pled guilty as
charged to child endangering and involuntary manslaughter.
The trial court accepted appellant's plea, set the matter
for sentencing, and ordered that a presentence investigation
report ("PSI") be prepared.
5} Appellant appeared for sentencing on November 30,
2016. To provide some context for the court as to the nature
and severity of appellant's crimes, the state called Dr.
Lori Vavul-Roediger, the medical director for the Department
of Child Advocacy at Dayton Children's Hospital. Dr.
Vavul-Roediger had performed a medical evaluation on Sylas on
December 13, 2015, and rendered an expert opinion as to the
cause and nature of Sylas' injuries. Dr. Vavul-Roediger
wrote a report detailing her findings, and this report was
provided to the trial court.
6} Dr. Vavul-Roediger testified that Sylas arrived
at the hospital malnourished and weighing only 9.8 kilograms,
or 21.6 pounds. Sylas had extensive injuries to his mouth, as
he was missing a central incisor, his upper gum line was open
and had a clot of blood, and his lower lip and gum line were
injured and oozing blood. Dr. Vavul-Roediger opined that the
oral injuries were caused by a "very violent, forceful,
blunt trauma to the child's oral cavity." Sylas also
had significant head trauma, including an acute subdural
hemorrhage and extensive cerebral swelling, which Dr.
Vavul-Roediger opined resulted from multiple blows to his
head. Dr. Vavul-Roediger also observed bruising to Sylas'
ears, forehead, jaw, chin, back, legs, and arms, as well as
healing or healed burn marks to Sylas' back and his
scrotum. Skeletal x-rays showed healing and acute fractures
to Sylas' jaw, collarbone, and ribs and compressive
injuries to his spinal column.
7} Dr. Vavul-Roediger spoke with appellant after
examining Sylas. Appellant told Dr. Vavul-Roediger that Sylas
had not seen a doctor since April 2015. Appellant informed
Dr. Vavul-Roediger that Sylas had harmed himself by banging
his head on various objects. Appellant also commented that
Sylas had become thinner recently, but appellant attributed
this to Sylas growing taller. Appellant stated Sylas ate all
the time and had to be stopped from over eating as he would
eat until he vomited.
8} Appellant informed Dr. Vavul-Roediger that she
made three videos of Sylas on her cellphone on December 6,
2015 to show the injuries Sylas had inflicted on himself.
These videos were played at the sentencing hearing. After
viewing the videos, Dr. Vavul-Roediger testified that Sylas
"appear[ed] malnourished * * * appear[ed] to be clearly
acutely distressed * * * [and] clearly non-responsive to the
adult who [was] taping and continue[d] to tape while he
[stood], essentially, motionless and crie[d]." Dr.
Vavul-Roediger stated Sylas' injuries were
"extremely" and "exorbitantly" uncommon
of injuries sustained from self-induced
"head-banging." Rather, given the severity and type
of injuries Sylas experienced, Dr. Vavul-Roediger opined that
Sylas was "unfortunately, physically abused and died as
a result of the physical maltreatment he sustained."
9} In addition to Dr. Vavul-Roediger's
testimony, and the three December 6, 2015 videos taken from
appellant's phone, the state also introduced a video of
Sylas that was taken by his former foster parents. The video
depicted a healthy 11-month-old Sylas. Following the
presentation of this video, the state asked the trial court
to impose maximum, consecutive sentences on appellant.
10} Appellant declined the opportunity to speak at
sentencing, but defense counsel spoke on her behalf. Defense
counsel noted appellant had substance abuse issues and had
been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and an
adjustment disorder with depressive mood. Defense counsel
stated that although appellant denied intentionally harming
Sylas, she took responsibility for her recklessness in caring
for her son and was "deeply remorseful" that she
did not provide or seek better care for Sylas.
11} After considering the information presented at
the sentencing hearing, sentencing memoranda prepared by the
parties, a letter submitted by appellant's daughter, and
the PSI, the trial court determined that the presumption of a
prison term had not been overcome. The court sentenced
appellant to a nine-year prison term on the involuntary
manslaughter charge, which was run concurrently to a
three-year prison term on the endangering children charge.
12} Appellant appealed her sentence, raising two