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'Feral' children's hopes for relief were dashed with death of sibling, police say

'Feral' children's hopes for relief were dashed with death of sibling, police say

Portage baby

Gary Hanney, left, and Tamika Conley

VALPARAISO — Portage Police Sgt. Janis Crafton hesitated with emotion Monday as she described for the court how three young children, who had become feral-like as a result of serious neglect by their mother, found their glimmer of hope with Gary Hanney dashed when his own neglect resulted in the death of the youngest sibling.

Hanney sat nearby in the courtroom and wept as well during what turned out to be the first phase of a two-day sentencing hearing three months after the 32-year-old Wheatfield resident pleaded guilty to a level 1 felony count of neglect of a dependent in the July 18, 2017 incident that led to the death of the 19-month-old girl.

The sentencing is scheduled to wrap up at 9 a.m. June 23 before Porter Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clymer.

Hanney, who faces 20 to 40 years behind bars, was living in Portage with Tamika Conley and was caring for her three children when at some point on the night in question, he claims he became aware that the youngest girl was injured and in need of medical care, according to court documents.

But rather than seek immediate care, he searched the internet for information about head trauma and called Conley home from work, according to officials. He waited 44 minutes to call for help and responding officials found the child was not breathing and had no pulse.

Sentencing delayed in baby death case

While Hanney claimed the child was injured after being bounced from a bed, Shannon Thompson, a child abuse pediatrician at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, testified Monday that that was not a plausible explanation for the child's extensive injuries, which included bruising from nearly head to toe, bleeding in the brain and what appeared to be a detached retina in the eye.

"She clearly had impact injury to her brain," the doctor said, describing it as shaken baby syndrome.

The child died July 21, 2017.

Crafton said the deceased girl, and her then-6-year-old brother and 4-year-old sister, probably received the most stability in their life during the seven months they spent involved with Hanney.

Conley, 26, who has pleaded guilty to three level 3 felony counts of neglect of a dependent and faces 30 years of probation once Hanney's case is wrapped up, did not regularly feed her children, locked them up in rooms, gave them Benadryl to sleep, Crafton said.

Crafton described their home at Camelot Manor Estates mobile home park as "barren" and "filthy."

The children slept on stained bare mattresses on the floor, she said, and found scattered around the home were small bags used for heroin, drug needles and burned drug spoons.

Man pleads guilty second time in traumatic death of girlfriend's toddler

Crafton described Conley's lack of emotion as the most severe she has ever seen in her police work.

When she and another official were left to arrange for the child's funeral, they offered the little girl's ashes to Conley and her response was, "Well, you care about her, so you take them," Crafton said.

Guilty plea in toddler's death could be in jeopardy as accused man downplays his role

Hanney had pleaded guilty once prior in the case, but agreed with prosecutors in August to dismiss that agreement that carried a potential sentence of 20 to 30 years behind bars.

He told The Times in an exclusive interview in August that while admitting culpability in not seeking help sooner for the child, he was having second thoughts about having pleaded guilty to such a high-level criminal offense. He said he did not knowingly hurt the child and that the girl's mother played a bigger role in the case than has been portrayed.

Gallery: Recent arrests booked into Porter County Jail


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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.

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