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Courts

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Live-in boyfriend blamed for abuse

Trial counts allege neglect, molesting

Combs

– Shanna Vorndran moved in with her then-boyfriend Michael A. Combs in the summer of 2010, but she doesn’t remember exactly when.

Not long after, bruises began appearing on her two young sons, though she doesn’t remember exactly when that started either.

But on Sept. 14, 2010, she came home from her job at a fast-food restaurant to find her 15-month-old son lying in pain atop a mattress on the floor – his femur broken in a spiral fracture.

Vorndran, 25, testified against Combs on Tuesday in the first day of his trial in Allen Superior Court on two felony charges of neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury, felony battery and felony child molesting.

Combs, 27, of the 1000 block of Van Buren Street, is accused of neglecting Vorndran’s two sons, ages 15 months and 2 at the time.

Combs is also accused of sodomizing the older boy, a charge added in February, months after he was initially charged.

Vorndran is currently awaiting sentencing herself, having pleaded guilty in January to two felony charges of neglect of a dependent.

She has yet to be sentenced, and her plea pact capping the prison sentence at six years hinged in part on her testimony against Combs.

Also charged and awaiting sentencing for her role is Anna Hogan, 31, Combs’ sister. She and her four children lived with Combs and Vorndran during the same time. Like Combs, Hogan did not have a job and she had a baby-sitting arrangement with Vorndran, the only one in the house with a job.

When investigators discovered the abuse, the older boy was taken to the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center and forensic examiners found evidence of sexual abuse. But the cause of those injuries was unexplained until January, when Hogan gave information to prosecutors.

She said she saw Combs standing over the toddler, who was lying facedown on the bed. Combs told her that the boy had vomited, but Hogan said she saw no evidence of that, according to court documents.

During Vorndran’s testimony Tuesday, she said when she worked, the children were with Hogan and Combs but said she did not know who specifically was watching them.

She said when she came home to find her injured son, she asked what happened. Either Combs or Hogan told her the toddler fell out of a playpen. Before she could take him to the hospital, Hogan and Combs took her vehicle and went to visit their uncle, she said.

Combs’ defense attorney, John Bohdan, is arguing that Combs had no responsibility to Vorndran’s children. He was not their father, nor was he the designated baby sitter.

During cross-examination, Bohdan prodded Vorndran about whom was with her children the day the toddler’s leg was broken. Vorndran said she did not recall whether she herself saw her children Sept. 13, 2010.

Emergency room staff at Parkview Hospital said that the spiral fracture could not have been caused by a tumble out of a playpen. They also documented a number of bruises on the little boy, also inconsistent with normal falls, and notified the Department of Children Services.

Lenita Holder, a family case manager with Children Services, testified that, unsatisfied with the explanations for the toddler’s injuries, she went to the home in the 900 block of Washington Boulevard and found the older boy. He was in the custody of Combs and Hogan – dirty and covered in bruises, with “no emotion at all on his face.”

“He was covered front and back with bruises,” she said.

When Holder questioned Combs about the broken leg, he told her he wasn’t really good with time and couldn’t remember exactly when the child was injured or what exactly happened.

She notified her supervisor and made arrangements to remove the two boys from the home. Another caseworker removed Hogan’s four children as well.

“The explanations made no sense,” Holder said.

The trial is expected to continue through Thursday.

rgreen@jg.net

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