Courtney Kincaid, convicted in the death of 11-month-old Emma Grace Leeman, will spend the next 30 years behind bars.
Kincaid, 30, was sentenced Thursday by Whitley Circuit Court Judge Matthew Rentschler after a jury found Kincaid guilty in July of aggravated battery, a Level 1 felony; neglect of a dependant resulting in death, a Level 1 felony; and battery resulting in death to a person less than 14 years old, a Level 2 felony.
Kincaid has been in the custody of the Whitley County Sheriff since her July 31 conviction. On Thursday, Rentschler sentenced her to 30 years in the Indiana Department of Corrections for aggravated battery, the Level 1 felony; and 30 years in the IDOC for neglect of a dependant resulting in death, the Level 1 felony. Those sentences will run concurrently – meaning at the same time. Count III, battery resulting in death, a Level 2 felony, was dismissed because Rentschler said it violated Indiana’s double jeopardy law, where a person cannot be convicted of the same crime twice.
Because of Indiana’s good-time sentence serving laws, Kincaid will likely serve 75% of her sentence, meaning she will spend about 22-1/2 years in prison.
She was also ordered to pay $11,447 in restitution to Nick and Sherry Leeman, of Pierceton, who are the parents of Emma Grace.
Kincaid babysat children in her Columbia City home, including Emma Grace. On April 12, 2018, Emma Grace suffered head trauma that caused extreme swelling on the brain. Surgery was required to alleviate that pressure, but Emma Grace did not survive. Fort Wayne Regional Medical Center Radiologist Dr. John Reed said “he considered the injuries caused to be more associated with a motor vehicle crash.”
Kincaid was the only adult present in the home at the time of the injuries. She has told investigators more than five stories of what happened to Emma Grace – none of which prosecutors nor Emma Grace’s family believe.
A five-day jury trial in Whitley Circuit Court – two years after Emma Grace’s death – featured testimony from doctors, experts, pathologists and an Indiana State Police detective who administered a lie detector exam on Kincaid, which she failed.
Kincaid’s attorneys – Zach and Brad Baber of Columbia City – painted their client to be a person of good character and as someone who simply spoke to the police without an attorney because she was trying to be helpful. The Babers have asserted throughout all court proceedings that Kincaid was tricked by detectives who used an interrogation technique that coerces false confessions.
The 12-person jury didn’t buy it, and Whitley County Prosecutor D.J. Sigler accused Kincaid Thursday of doing what he says she’s always done – looking out for her own hide.
“There is no character letter than can be written, there is no reputation good enough,” Sigler told the judge Thursday. “This was a devastating impact, not only on the skull of Emma Grace Leeman, but the ripple effects through everyone’s lives. When we go away from here, and Mrs. Kincaid has served her sentence … and she’s paid for the crime, she will walk free, somewhere. Emma Grace Leeman never will.”
Sigler asked the judge to sentence Kincaid to 30 years each for Counts I and II and to have them run consecutively, which would have put her behind bars for 60 years.
Zach Baber asked the judge to sentence his client to home detention so Kincaid could raise her three children, all under the age of 7.
Baber had six character witnesses testify on behalf of his client Thursday, including Kincaid’s mother, husband and several in-laws. They all spoke about how Kincaid is a giving person, oftentimes volunteering her time to the community and service of others. They all said she never even raised her voice, let alone hurt anyone.
But perhaps the most impactful statements of the day came from Nick and Sherry Leeman, testimony that made the judge appear emotional.
“To say it’s had an impact on our lives is an understatement,” Nick said. “We went from a household of four to three in the blink of an eye.”
He talked about the change it’s caused in his wife and the Leemans’ now 6-year-old daughter, who has a fear of going places with even people she trusts – because the Leemans trusted Kincaid.
“I have joined the club that nobody wants to be a part of. I no longer have my car ride buddy. I no longer get to go have my early morning one-sided conversations. The giggles when I would say something stupid just to get her to laugh and to hear it. I have many, many amazing memories of a little girl, and that’s all I have left. … I just have those 11 months’ worth,” Nick said. He ran through all of the milestones Emma Grace will never get to reach, starting with making it to her first birthday.
“No one will ever get to know who she could have been truly been or what she could have done with her life all because of one decision made April 12, 2018,” he said.
Sherry Leeman made it clear to Kincaid that she is not granting Kincaid forgiveness, because Kincaid has never asked her for it.
Sherry said the not knowing of what exactly happened to Emma Grace haunts her everyday. So do the memories of Kincaid accompanying the Leemans to the hospitals where Emma Grace was rushed.
“How could you sit among us? A wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Sherry said. “You didn’t ask to come to the funeral, you didn’t send flowers or offer any condolences, and to this day all you’ve ever done is deny killing our daughter and never apologizing for it.”
Leeman said because Kincaid ended Emma Grace’s potential, she wants Kincaid’s to end.
“Let me be clear, I don’t want you dead. I want you miserable and crying and missing your children and that still will only be a fraction of what we go through,” Sherry said. “Your children still have potential. They’re still alive. … And hopefully will not feel damaged having come from a mother like you. … You won’t be hearing any tearful words of forgiveness from me. You haven’t asked for it. You haven’t even given our family the peace of closure, the finality of it, a chance to not move forward but past all of this tragedy. You are a lost cause, not able or worthy of forgiveness.”
But Sherry ended on a high-note about her daughter and talked about the good work Emma Grace does live on doing by being an organ donor. Emma Grace’s organs live on in three children, Sherry said.
“So you see, Courtney, you’ve been charged and convicted of killing Emma Grace, but you didn’t. You hurt her. You stole her from us. You took the Emma Grace that we knew from the world. … You tried to stop her potential, and you couldn’t. She lives. She did have a first birthday, she will go to school, she will fall in love, and she does know family and security and love like she deserves, because we made sure that you took her life, but she gave life. Every time I see those wonderful children that she saved, I rejoice in knowing that she lives on despite you. She lives on because of us,” Sherry said.
In the end, Rentschler told Kincaid he believes Kincaid’s actions after the incident only made things worse for the Leeman family. Changing her story and never really telling the truth has caused much harm.
“The not knowing,” Rentschler said, “Which is almost as much of a tragedy as the initial crime itself. … The only evidence of bad character that the court has heard is the facts of the case itself … Obviously, Emma Grace is the predominant victim in this matter. It was helpful to be reminded by Emma Grace’s parents of the many things in her life that she will not experience. A second victim in this offense is Emma’s family. What they’ve had to endure is horrible. A third victim of this offense is your family. By your actions, you have separated yourself from your family. You have obligated the court to do that for you. So in the same way Emma Grace will not experience moments in her life, your children will not have you present to experience things in their life. And that is tragic, too.”