Marion Co. prosecutor: Man charged with February reckless homicide; suspect accused of leaving woman outside before she froze to death

Indianapolis Area Crime
Justin Holman

Justin Holman (booking photo provided by Marion County Jail)

INDIANAPOLIS- A man has been charged with reckless homicide in connection to a woman’s death in February.

On February 19, officers with IMPD found a woman lying in the snow around 1:40 a.m. behind the Indyland Laundromat on E. 38th Street on the northeast side. She was pronounced dead at the scene. She was later identified as Shanel Smith, 50.

Court documents reveal responding officers detected scratches and marks on Smith’s hands, a small mark on her neck, and what appeared to be swelling around her eyes.

Surveillance video from the laundromat showed a car pull in behind the building the afternoon before Smith was found. A man is seen on camera pulling the victim out of the car and laying her down in the snow, throwing items out of the vehicle, and leaving her as he drives away.

According to an affidavit, after she was left behind, Smith was seen moving her arms and legs for several minutes before she lie motionless for about two hours. She then sat up one final time before lying back down. She remained motionless for the remainder of the video.

Police estimated Smith was outside for about ten hours before Lawrence officers found her early the next morning. A coroner’s examination revealed the marks on her body were likely caused by her being dragged out of the vehicle and being left on the snow and ice.

IMPD homicide detectives were able to track traffic cameras and found a car matching the vehicle seen on camera. They then pulled the license plate information and located the owner, and ultimately, the residence of where the vehicle was located.

Police had a person from the home, identified as Justin Holman, come to the homicide office for questioning. Officers noted he appeared to have on the same jacket and hat as the man in the surveillance video.

Holman told police he and Smith were hanging out and drinking in the vehicle in the parking lot between the laundromat and a liquor store on February 18. When asked about pulling Smith out of the car and leaving her, Holman said he did not remember because he was intoxicated.

Holman said the car belonged to his girlfriend, and he often would sit in it and drink in the parking lot near the laundromat. The court affidavit stated he was already in the lot when Smith got in the back seat. He told investigators Smith had fallen asleep and would not wake up. He needed to get back home, so he pulled her out of the car and left, according to court documents.

Investigators said Holman could not explain why he left Smith behind the business when he could have pulled to the front of the laundromat and left her there. The laundromat is open 24 hours a day, and several people were already there in the front around the time Smith was left.

According to the coroner’s report, Smith died of environmental cold exposure. Toxicology reports indicate she had a BAC level of .297 at the time samples were taken.

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