Gerald R. Thom
Jeffrey A. Modisett
Christopher L. Lafuse
Jasper, INAttorneys for Appellee
Attorney General of Indiana
Deputy Attorney General
Gerald R. Thom
Jeffrey A. Modisett
Christopher L. Lafuse
LEON R. JONES,
Appellant (Defendant below),
STATE OF INDIANA,
Appellee (Plaintiff below).
) Supreme Court No.
Defendant Leon R. Jones pled guilty to MurderSee footnote 1 and Criminal Deviate Conduct
Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury,See footnote
a class A felony. The trial court sentenced defendant
to 65 years in prison for murder and 30 years for criminal deviate conduct, to be served
consecutively. The sole issue in this appeal is the propriety of the sentence. Finding the
sentence to have been imposed properly, we affirm.
We have jurisdiction over this direct appeal because the longest single sentence
exceeds fifty years. Ind. Const. art. VII, § 4; Ind. Appellate Rule 4(A)(7).
After defendant knocked Wentzel to the ground, he and Craig began kicking her. After beating her, defendant demanded that Wentzel take off her clothes. Defendant then
raped Wentzel in a manner which included anal penetration. Defendant next told Powell
to rape Wentzel, which he did. After Powell, Craig raped Wentzel. Defendant, Powell and
Craig then resumed kicking Wentzel.
After kicking her for some time in her body and face, Wentzel laid there unconscious. Defendant checked to see if Wentzel was still alive and found that she was.
Defendant then got into the truck and ran over Wentzel approximately fifteen times.
Defendant, Powell and Craig placed Wentzel in the back of the vehicle and drove to a
different location to dispose of the body.
While driving, Wentzel suddenly sat up. When they reached the second location,
defendant unloaded Wentzel from the vehicle and both he and Craig resumed kicking her.
Defendant then got into the vehicle and ran over the body several more times. Craig then
stabbed Wentzel with a screwdriver. An autopsy revealed that Wentzel died from multiple
blunt force injuries to her abdomen, chest and head.
The State charged defendant with Murder, Rape While Using Deadly Force,See footnote 4 and Criminal Deviate Conduct Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury. The State also sought two
separate sentences of life imprisonment without parole.See footnote
Defendant pled guilty to murder
and criminal deviate conduct. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the State dismissed Rape and
requests for sentences of life without parole.
After the sentencing hearing on January 14, 1997, the trial court concluded that, given the nature and circumstances of the crime, the defendant was to serve a maximum sentence of sixty-five (65) years for murder and thirty (30) years for criminal deviate conduct. The court further ordered these sentences to be served consecutively. Defendant contends that the trial court improperly and inconsistently enhanced one sentence over the
other and improperly imposed consecutive sentences. He asserts that his sentence is
manifestly unreasonable in light of the nature of the offense and the character of the offender. We disagree.
When enhancing a sentence, a trial court must state its specific reasons for doing so.
Accordingly, the sentencing statement must: (1) identify significant aggravating and mitigating circumstances; (2) state the specific reason why each circumstance is aggravating or
mitigating; and, (3) evaluate and balance the mitigating against the aggravating circumstances to determine if the mitigating offset the aggravating circumstances. Mitchem v.
State, 685 N.E.2d 671, 678 (Ind. 1997) (citing Jones v. State, 675 N.E.2d 1084, 1086 (Ind.
sentence was inconsistent because the murder conviction was enhanced while the criminal
deviate conduct resulting in bodily injury conviction was not.
At the sentencing hearing, the trial court identified eight aggravating circumstances:
(1) the victim's death was apparently slow, painful and torturous; (2) defendant had a
history of criminal activity as a juvenile; (3) although no criminal convictions as an adult,
there was evidence of criminal activity;See footnote
(4) defendant was placed in residential treatment
or detention as a juvenile but was a runaway from treatment; (5) from the trial court's
observations at various hearings, defendant displayed a complete lack of remorse for the
death of the victim; (6) defendant had no significant work history and had failed to support
his one dependent; (7) defendant appeared to have no family support system or support from
his peers; and, (8) defendant was in a position to withdraw from the criminal activity and to
even prevent the crimes from occurring but had failed to do so.
The trial court also identified three mitigating circumstances: (1) defendant lacked
criminal convictions as an adult; (2) defendant pled guilty; and, (3) defendant did not enjoy
a normal childhood but came from a dysfunctional family.
The finding of mitigating circumstances is within the discretion of the trial court and
we will only conclude that they were overlooked when there is substantial evidence in the
record of the existence of significant mitigating circumstances. Grund, 671 N.E.2d at 419
(citing Scheckel v. State, 620 N.E.2d 681, 686 (Ind. 1993)). The record does not suggest
that when the trial court identified significant mitigating circumstances, it overlooked other
We also find no merit in defendant's claim that the sentences were inconsistent
because only one aggravating circumstance directly addressed a specific crime _ murder _
while the others did not. The fact that the maximum sentence possible was not imposed on
the criminal deviate conduct conviction points in favor of the court's having done its
evaluative process appropriately. It does not demonstrate that the sentences were improper,
inconsistent or manifestly unreasonable.
in determining whether to impose consecutive sentences).
Here, the trial court found aggravating circumstances as noted supra. These aggravating circumstances were sufficient to justify the imposition of consecutive sentences. See
Taylor, 695 N.E.2d at 120 (a court may consider the nature and circumstances of a crime to
determine what sentence to impose); Scheckel, 620 N.E.2d at 685 (the particular heinous
nature and circumstances of the crime were considered as aggravating circumstances).
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON, SELBY, and BOEHM, JJ., concur.
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