FORT WAYNE – When the jury announced its guilty verdicts against 27-year-old Michael Bubby Combs, his face turned bright red and he fought back tears.
As Allen County Sheriff’s Department officers took him into custody, his mother began hollering and was hustled out of the courtroom.
You are all wrong, she yelled. My son would never hurt a child.
The jury, though, saw the evidence differently after two days of testimony. Jurors found Combs guilty of a Class A felony charge of child molesting, Class B felony charges of neglect of a dependent and a Class D felony charge of battery.
The Fort Wayne man faces more than 20 years in prison when he is sentenced next month.
Allen County prosecutors charged Combs with neglecting and abusing his then-girlfriend’s two young sons – ages 15 months and 2 years – for about three weeks between late August and mid-September 2010.
His then-girlfriend, 25-year-old Shanna Vorndran, pleaded guilty to her role in the abuse, admitting to neglecting her two children in a manner that caused serious bodily injury. She faces about six years in prison when she is sentenced this year.
Also charged was Combs’ sister Anna Hogan, 31.
She lived with the couple, along with her four children, in a house on West Washington Boulevard.
They were all charged last September, about a year after Vorndran’s youngest son was taken to the emergency room with a spiral fracture of his femur, initiating an investigation by the Department of Child Services.
When caseworkers went to the house, they found the other boy covered in bruises and injuries from head to toe. A forensic examination revealed he had been sexually abused, with an injury still bleeding and less than 24 hours old, according to testimony.
That injury went unexplained until this year, when Hogan told prosecutors she came in on Combs, standing over the toddler who was lying facedown on the bed.
Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Tom Chaille said during his closing statements that the sexual assault left lasting injuries to the boy, now 4, who has to make regular trips with his father to an Indianapolis hospital for treatment.
Medical experts, Child Services workers and acquaintances testified about the appearance of the children, especially the bruises. A friend of Hogan’s also testified having seen Combs knock the toddler across the room with a palm strike to the head.
Prosecutors argued during their closing statements that there was enough evidence – medical, circumstantial and eyewitness – to connect Combs to the abuse of the boys, including the molestation.
Combs’ defense focused on Hogan’s plea agreement with prosecutors, which was to lesser charges than she originally faced.
That plea agreement, and Hogan’s testimony earlier in the trial, outraged the rest of Combs’ family, who loudly disparaged Hogan on the Courthouse lawn after the verdict.