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Indiana court affirms Gary woman’s conviction in child suffocation death

The golden scales of justice. (Photo by Narcis Grigore/Getty Images)

GARY, Ind. (AP) — The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld the murder conviction of a Gary woman who admitted that she fatally smothered her 1-year-old foster child in her crib in 2017.

Jamilia Hodge, 37, was sentenced in April to 50 years in prison, followed by five years on probation in the death of Emma Salinas. The child died in her crib in the bedroom of Hodge’s home in May 2017.

Hodge argued in her appeal that the Lake County trial court erred by allowing statements she made to police during more than 12 hours of interrogation to be admitted as evidence during her trial.

The videotaped interviews showed Hodge confessing that she placed a hand over Salinas’ mouth and smothered her because the child was crying, The Northwest Indiana Times reported.

But in Thursday’s ruling affirming Hodge’s conviction the appeals court panel determined that Hodge’s statements to police were acceptable for use at trial because they were not induced by violence, threats or other improper influences that overcame her free will.

The court said Hodge clearly was advised of her constitutional rights to remain silent and to request an attorney, and found that she voluntarily waived those rights by reading aloud and signing a waiver form at the start of both of her interviews with police.

Hodge still can ask the Indiana Supreme Court to consider reviewing her conviction.