Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth District, Williams
Court No. 17CR000110
Yost, Ohio Attorney General, and Micah R. Ault, for appellee.
L. Coble, for appellant.
DECISION AND JUDGMENT
Background and Procedure
1} On June 6, 2017, police were called to the home
of appellant, Alan Laney, to investigate injuries to his
girlfriend's 17-month-old child, S.H. Laney lived at the
home with his girlfriend, Alisha Underwood, along with two of
his children, Kayla Harrold, his adult daughter, and his
newborn son, born to Underwood. Additionally, Underwood's
three other minor children resided at the home with Laney.
2} Jennifer Benson, Harrold's mother and
Laney's ex-wife, placed the call to police after Harrold
called her to come to the house to see S.H.'s injuries.
Both Laney and Underwood were out at the time, and had left
Harrold to babysit all of the children, including S.H. When
Benson arrived, she found Harrold very distraught, and noted
the bruising on S.H., covering the child from head to toe.
While Benson was on the phone with the police dispatcher,
Laney and Underwood returned home.
3} When police arrived, they separated Harrold and
Benson from Laney and Underwood for questioning. Harrold told
police that she witnessed Laney strike and kick S.H., and
spank her with a board and a flyswatter in the days
preceding, and that she did not do anything at the time
because she feared Laney. However, Laney claimed he did
nothing to S.H., indicating instead that any injuries
resulted from a fall down the outside stairs to the home.
4} Officers noted bruising to S.H.'s face and a
mark on her chest that appeared to match a flyswatter in the
home. Police also noticed a paddle next to Laney's chair.
They took photographs of the injuries and the scene, and
collected the paddle and fly swatter as evidence. Police
called Tracy Valentine, a Williams County Department of Job
and Family Services investigator, to the scene. Valentine
assisted in the investigation, took photographs of the
injuries, and assisted in interviewing witnesses.
5} Officers transported S.H. to the hospital for an
examination by Dr. Francis Aona, who noted significant
bruising from head to toe, with the bruising indicating
injury over a period of time, displaying various stages of
healing. Dr. Aona indicated that the injuries were not
consistent with a fall down the stairs, and the bruise to the
chest resembled a grid-like pattern, consistent with the
flyswatter collected from the scene. In addition to bruising,
Dr. Aona noted an injury to the right hand he identified as a
second-degree burn from a cigarette. Dr. Aona declined to
take x-rays or scans, so the next day, investigators also had
S.H. examined at Toledo Hospital, where S.H. was examined a
second time, and had x-rays and CT scans taken. The findings
from the Toledo Hospital exam were consistent with S.H.'s
6} On September 19, 2017, Laney was indicted on 11
counts stemming from the abuse of S.H, including 2 counts of
felonious assault, in violation of R.C.
2903.11(A)(1)(D)(1)(a), 2 counts of endangering children, in
violation of R.C. 2919.22(B)(1)(E)(2)(d), felonies of the
second degree, 6 counts of endangering children, in violation
of R.C. 2919.22(B)(2)(E)(3), felonies of the third degree,
and 1 count of endangering children, in violation of R.C.
2919.22(B)(4) and (E)(3), a felony of the third degree.
7} The grand jury also indicted Underwood on two
felony counts and one misdemeanor count of child endangering
for her involvement in the abuse. As part of a plea
agreement, Underwood entered a guilty plea to one count of
attempted endangering children, a fourth-degree felony, and
agreed to testify against Laney.
8} Because the other minor children witnessed the
abuse, the trial court conducted a voir dire examination of
three of the minor children on April 23, 2018, prior to the
trial, and determined two of the three were competent to
testify. The matter proceeded to a bench trial on May 3,
2018. The trial court entered acquittals as to one of the
felonious assault counts, one of the second-degree felony
child endangering counts, and one of the third-degree felony
child endangering counts. The trial court found Laney guilty
as to the remaining counts, and after merging allied
offenses, sentenced on Count 1 for felonious assault
involving the cigarette burn, Count 6 for child endangerment
involving strikes to the face, Count 9 for child endangerment
involving strikes with a flyswatter and wooden paddle, and
Count 10 for child endangerment involving injuries to the
legs caused by stomping. The trial court ordered the
sentences to run consecutively, for an aggregate prison term
of seven and one-half years.
9} Laney filed a timely appeal of his conviction,
asserting the following assignments of error:
I. Because the conviction for felonious assault is based
solely upon one burn which did not require treatment, the
conviction is unsupported by sufficient evidence and is
against the manifest weight of the evidence.
II. Two of the three convictions for endangering are
unsupported by sufficient evidence and are against the
manifest weight of the evidence, when the state's expert
opined that only one act cause "serious physical
harm" and the child's mother admitted to lying about
witnessing the acts.