EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of the story indicated that Coleman can not be charged with murder. This article has been updated based on new information from the police department.
INDIANAPOLIS — An Indy man seriously hurt as an infant three decades ago died from his injuries over the weekend.
IMPD says that death is now being considered a homicide.
While it may not be legally possible, the victim’s family hopes the suspect is charged with murder for the crime that took place 34 years ago.
In January 1988, police were called to Vine street on Indy’s west side and found a 2-month-old boy badly injured.
“He was shaken and it caused a brain hemorrhage,” said the victim’s uncle James Mitchell.
James and his wife Mary cared for their nephew Patrick 24 hours a day until Patrick passed away on Saturday.
“He had a tracheotomy in his throat, a gastro tube in his stomach. He couldn’t walk, talk, see or hear. He couldn’t communicate any way whatsoever,” said James.
James shared one photo of Patrick when he was two years old and a more recent picture showing the 34-year-old victim blind, brain-damaged, and bedridden his entire life.
“He suffered bad. I mean he never knew anything other than a 2-month-old baby in his mind,” said James.
Court records show in 1988, police arrested then 22-year-old John Edward Coleman, who was later charged and convicted of felony battery resulting in serious injury. He served a couple of years behind bars in the Indiana Department of Corrections.
In an IndyStar article from the day of Coleman’s sentencing, the prosecutor claimed Coleman got mad and shook the child to get him to stop crying.
Mitchell died from the injuries in the 1988 incident on February 12, 2022. His death has been ruled a homicide and will be counted in the year 2022 (not 1988) since that is when he passed away, according to IMPD.
Attorney John Tompkins isn’t connected to the case but says the law doesn’t allow someone to be prosecuted twice for the same crime. That term is called double jeopardy.
“If the same actual evidence would be used to prove the battery and then used again to prove the death, then it would be the same crime,” said Tompkins.
The Marion County prosecutor says right now they’re waiting until after Patrick’s autopsy to determine if double jeopardy applies and if the homicide case can go back to court like the Mitchell family wants.
“They should reopen it and charge him with murder. Just because Patrick was a baby when he got injured, shouldn’t make a difference,” said James.
For their part, police say the death remains an active investigation and they will forward all their findings to the prosecutor’s office.