PLYMOUTH – A Marshall County jury found a Walkerton man guilty late Wednesday of aggravated battery and other charges for severely burning his girlfriend’s toddler son.
Following a two-day trial that concluded Wednesday, Micah Kunkle, 34, was found guilty of
– aggravated battery when it results in loss or impairment of a bodily function, a Level 3 felony,
– battery with serious bodily injury to a person under 14, a Level 3 felony,
– neglect of a dependent resulting in serious injury, a Level 3 felony,
– and battery resulting bodily injury to a person under 14, a Level 5 felony.
Prosecutor Nelson Chipman said the jury deliberated about two and a half hours before returning with the guilty verdict at about 8:45 p.m. Sentencing is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 10.
The Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office in November charged Kunkle and his girlfriend, Dawn M. Walter, 32. Walter, the toddler’s mother, was also charged with the same counts.
Walter pleaded guilty in late June to neglect of a dependent for failing to seek medical treatment for her son, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tami Napier previously said.
As part of Walter’s plea agreement, the remaining charges will be dismissed and she was expected to testify against Kunkle at his trial, the chief deputy said.
A sentence was not stipulated in Walter’s plea agreement. Napier and Walter’s attorney, Plymouth lawyer Joseph Simanski, will argue what sentence Walter should receive from Marshall Superior Court I Judge Robert Bowen at a hearing set for 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 10.
Walter pleaded guilty to a Level 3 felony, which has a sentencing range of three to 16 years.
According to court records:
Sheriff’s deputies were initially called to the couple’s home at about 8:45 p.m. Oct. 23 on a report that Kunkle “was getting violent” with Walter. Deputies then learned emergency medical responders were needed because the 2-year-old allegedly took some Tylenol.
The couple signed off on medical treatment, telling deputies they would take the child to Memorial Hospital in South Bend for treatment.
About three hours later, deputies were dispatched to St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka on a report of possible child abuse involving the same toddler. The boy had suffered “severe burns to (his) buttocks, lower back and testicles,” according to court papers. The toddler also had scratches to the left side of his neck, redness to the right side of his forehead and bruises on the right leg and hip.
The court documents say the child’s biological father brought him to the hospital at Walter’s request. The Pilot News is not naming the father because he has not been implicated as being criminally involved in the case.
Walter told the biological father the boy suffered the burns after the toddler turned on hot water.
When Walter spoke with investigators, she denied that Kunkle had ever been violent to the 2-year-old, or her two other children, ages 9 and 11. She also denied knowing how the boy suffered the burns.
Walter said Kunkle told her he was giving the boy a bath while she was at work in mid-September. The toddler turned on the hot water, causing the burns, she told investigators. Investigators told Walter her story did not make sense, pointing out that if the burns happened during a bath, his feet, legs or arms should have been burned.
Walter admitted she should have taken the child to get medical attention. She denied that Kunkle had abused the children, but both she and the other children – who were uninjured and turned over to relatives – said Kunkle does “have a temper.”
In an unrelated case, the prosecutor’s office charged Walter with a single count of theft after she allegedly failed to make several cash deposits from McDonald’s, 10450 S.R. 10, Argos, between early September and late October.
The theft case is not covered in her plea agreement. That case remains ongoing.