Lake Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. imposed an 18-year sentence for aggravated battery and neglect of a dependent for an East Chicago woman who beat her 2-year-old child, causing a permanent, lifelong disability.
Stefaniak suspended one year of the sentence for Melissa Ramos Johnson, 29, who admitted she assaulted her son Elijah throughout the day on April 21, 2010 at a home in the 3800 block of Elm Street, East Chicago. Johnson slapped the child, causing him to fall and hit his head on the coffee table. Throughout the day she whipped him on the buttocks and struck him with a house shoe on the butt. The child suffered severe head injuries and spent months in a rehabilitation hospital. Elijah has permanent brain damage as a result of the attack.
Johnson also admitted she failed to get the baby prompt medical care.
Deputy prosecutor Michelle Jatkiewicz argued for the maximum 20-year sentence and called the crime “a senseless, brutal attack on a child.” Johnson was on probation at the time for burglary and robbery in Georgia.
Defense attorney Samuel Vazanellis noted his client had an undiagnosed mental illness and is deeply remorseful for her actions. Vazanellis also cited his client’s strong family support, as evidenced by several letters written on her behalf and a petition circulated by fellow church members.
Fourteen other charges were dismissed under terms of the plea agreement.