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Jury finds man guilty of leaving drunk woman in snow to die

Justin A. Holman in 2021 (Provided Photo/Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A jury on Tuesday convicted an Indianapolis man of kidnapping and reckless homicide for dragging a drunk woman out of a car and leaving her in the snow where she froze to death in 2021, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office says.

Police were called to a report of an unresponsive person just before 2 a.m. Feb. 19, 2021, in the 9900 block of East 38th Street. That’s west of the intersection with North Mitthoeffer Road. Officers found Shanel Smith, 50, dead in the snow.

Justin A. Holman, 38, of Indianapolis, was charged in June 2021.

Authorities say Holman was seen on surveillance video on the afternoon of Feb. 18 driving a vehicle behind the laundromat at 9940 E. 38th St. A suspect matching Holman’s description was seen dragging Smith from a rear passenger seat and leaving her in the snow, according to court documents.

The suspect was also seen tossing Smith’s belongings — including her jacket, hat and gloves — from the car before it left.

Smith was seen on video moving her legs and arms for several minutes after she was left in the snow. About two hours later, she was seen sitting up and trying to move before she laid back down, court documents show.

Smith was in the snow for about 10 hours before she was found.

Investigators identified the vehicle in the surveillance video and traced it back to Holman.

Holman was then brought in for questioning. He admitted to hanging out and drinking with Smith during the day on Feb. 18, 2021. According to court documents, he also admitted to dragging her out of the car because she “fell asleep and he needed to get home.”

Holman told investigators he didn’t remember why he decided to pull around the back of the laundromat and leave Smith in the snow or why he decided not to leave her in front of the 24-hour laundromat where people were.

On April 29, 2021, Smith’s death was ruled a homicide caused by environmental cold overexposure. Her blood alcohol content was 0.297, more than three times Indiana’s legal threshold.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 15.

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