In the afternoon of April 22nd, a jury empaneled in Hamilton Circuit Court found 35-year-old Elijah Mills of Indianapolis guilty of neglect of a dependent resulting in catastrophic injury or death, battery resulting in serious bodily injury to a person less than 14-years-old, and battery resulting in death to a person less than 14-years-old following a five-day trial. The neglect charge is a Level 1 felony, which carries a sentencing range of twenty to forty years in prison with the advisory sentence being thirty years. The battery charge involving serious bodily injury is a Level 3 felony, which carries a sentencing range of three to sixteen years in prison with the advisory sentence being nine years. The battery charge involving the death of a child is a Level 2 felony, which carries a sentencing range of ten to thirty years with the advisory sentence being seventeen and one-half years.
The Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney's Office brought the first two charges against Mr. Mills in November 2019 under cause number 29C01-1911-F1-009633 after first responders were called to his Noblesville apartment and found his son unresponsive on the living room floor.
The jury heard from twenty-seven witnesses, twenty-five of which were called to testify by the prosecution team. First responders described finding the victim, who was 4 years-old at the time, with bruises in various stages of healing over his body, which also appeared very small for his age. The child was rushed to Riverview Hospital and transferred to Riley Hospital for Children where emergency neurosurgery was performed. Medical personnel described the child’s extensive injuries, many of which were also in various stages of healing. The injury to the child’s brain was described as neurologically devastating, and, while he survived his initial admission to Riley, he was not able to regain neuro-typical abilities to walk, talk, or eat. Overall, medical personnel classified his injuries as “consistent with non-accidental, inflicted trauma” – the strongest language typically used in a medical diagnosis of child physical abuse.
The third charge, battery resulting in death to a person less than 14-years-old, was added by the prosecution in August 2021, after a forensic pathologist reviewed the child’s medical records, including those from a second admission to Riley in November 2020 after developing aspiration pneumonia, a known complication of the type of traumatic brain injury the child sustained. Tragically, due to the damage to his brain, the child was unable to recover and died on December 13, 2020. The forensic pathologist concluded that the cause of death was acute respiratory failure as a result of traumatic brain injury, and the manner of death was homicide – that is, death caused by another person.
In addition to the testimony of first responders and medical personnel, the jury heard from a former neighbor and former friends of Mr. Mills. The neighbor described sounds he heard from the apartment above him: Mr. Mills yelling at the child, and the child crying out. When he saw police in the apartment building in August 2019, he asked to speak with them and expressed his concerns for the child’s safety. A former friend described Mr. Mills bringing the child to her apartment, approximately three weeks prior to the November 2019 incident, and being so shocked and concerned by the child’s appearance and Mr. Mills’ behavior toward him that she contacted the Department of Child Services the following day.
“This tragic case demonstrates the importance of all members of our community doing their part to protect children. Without these fellow citizens raising their concerns, sharing their observations, and following through with law enforcement and trial testimony, holding Mr. Mills accountable through prosecution would have been even more difficult,” said D. Lee Buckingham II, Prosecuting Attorney of Hamilton County. “My staff’s efforts might not have been successful without fellow members of the community saying something when they saw something or without the dedication of so many fine first responders and medical professionals,” he continued, referencing the mantra “see something, say something.” Mr. Buckingham extends great appreciation for the tremendous efforts of his staff, especially lead trial prosecutor Jessica Paxson and her co-counsel, Lars Olson.
The Court accepted the jury’s verdicts, entered judgments of conviction, and ordered Mr. Mills to be held at the Hamilton County Jail without bail pending the sentencing hearing set for May 19th.