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Last updated: Wed. Feb. 20, 2013 - 06:18 am EDT

Excuses wear on judge in grandmother neglect case

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FORT WAYNE — A 33-year-old Fort Wayne woman was sentenced Tuesday to two years of home detention for neglecting her grandmother.

During the hearing, both Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck and Prosecutor Karen Richards expressed concern for Melanie McKinley’s soon-to-be-born child, given her past behavior.

And throughout the hearing, McKinley offered excuse after excuse for whatever issue was brought up by Richards or the judge.

Substance abuse? McKinley said she had witnessed something traumatic and didn’t handle it well.

Neglect of a pet? McKinley said she doesn’t believe in micro-chipping her animal and that there had been a misunderstanding with Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control.

The neighbors who called the police about the grandmother’s injuries? McKinley said they were mad at her for some other reason.

And McKinley offered her explanations for why she chose to leave her elderly grandmother – 78 years old with Stage 4 Alzheimer’s – alone inside what police found to be a hazard-filled house.

“I made a bad choice … it was cold outside,” McKinley said, adding that she chose to leave her alone instead of taking her along to check on another house across the street where they were to move.

“I thought I was making the best decision,” she said, “but I did put her in a dangerous situation.”

In October 2011, police and paramedics responded to a report of an older woman who seemed confused and looked as if she’d been battered.

They found the woman alone and disoriented, with numerous bruises and blood on her nose. Her home had wires across the floor and an open door to the basement staircase.

McKinley, the woman’s granddaughter, was at a neighbor’s home, having left the elderly woman alone for a few hours. She told police and paramedics that the woman was injured because she fell down a lot and told them not to take her to the hospital, according to court documents.

But emergency officials ignored that request. Doctors found numerous bruises, cuts to her hands and mild fractures to her pelvis, according to court documents.

Originally charged with Class C felony neglect of a dependent, punishable by up to eight years in prison, prosecutors dismissed the more serious charge, and McKinley pleaded guilty to a Class D felony charge, punishable by up to three years.

As Surbeck sentenced McKinley, asking her about her history of substance abuse, McKinley interrupted him again.

“Ms. McKinley, is there anything you don’t have an excuse for?” he said.

She finally sat silent.

Surbeck sentenced her to a total of three years in prison, but suspended one year and ordered it to be served on probation. She will serve the remaining two years on home detention. He also ordered her to attend parenting classes while on home detention.

McKinley’s grandmother has since died.

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