PLYMOUTH – A Marshall County judge sentenced a man to more than two decades in prison Thursday for severely abusing his girlfriend’s toddler son last year.

Marshall Superior Court Judge Robert Bowen sentenced Micah Kunkle, 34, of Walkerton, to 22 years in prison after a jury found Kunkle guilty in September 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.

Specifically, the judge sentenced Kunkle to 16 years for the aggravated battery count, another 16 years for the battery with serious bodily injury, six years for neglect and five years for battery resulting in bodily injury.

Bowen ordered the sentences for the three battery counts to be served at the same time. However, that sentence will be served consecutively to the neglect charge, resulting in the 22-year total sentence.

Marshall County Prosecutor Nelson Chipman said Bowen’s sentence was the most Kunkle could have received.

“The lack of remorse displayed by Mr. Kunkle throughout, along with his lengthy disciplinary record while incarcerated, were the factors that most influenced Judge Bowen to hand down the maximum sentence allowed by law – 22 years imprisonment,” Chipman said after the hearing. “I am pleased with the results of the trial and the sentence. I extend my congratulations to all responsible for this successful prosecution.”

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tami Napier spearheaded the case for the prosecutor’s office. Kunkle’s attorney, Todd Wallsmith of Knox, did not return a message seeking comment.

Chipman said Kunkle plans to appeal his case.

It took a jury about two and a half hours to return with the guilty verdicts against Kunkle.

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 his girlfriend, Dawn M. Walter, 32. Deputies then learned emergency medical responders were needed because Walter’s 2-year-old son allegedly took some Tylenol.

The couple signed off on medical treatment, telling deputies they would take the child to Memorial Hospital in South Bend.

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 2018. 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.”

The prosecutor’s office in November charged Kunkle and Walter. Walter was 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, Napier previously said.

As part of Walter’s plea agreement, the remaining charges were dismissed and she was expected to testify against Kunkle at his trial, the chief deputy prosecutor previously said.

Before Kunkle’s sentencing, Bowen ordered Walter to serve nine years in prison for the single neglect count. The judge suspended three years of her sentence, however.

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.

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