DEARBORN CO., Ind. (FOX19) - Two former Dearborn County foster parents are now convicted of multiple counts of abuse against children in their care.
Dearborn County prosecutor Lynn Deddens says as part of a plea agreement, Diane Combs, 56, pleaded guilty to multiple counts including aggravated battery and will serve 20 years in prison followed by 12 years of probation.
She was originally charged with:
- Aggravated battery and knowingly inflicting injury that creates a substantial risk of death
- Domestic battery against a disabled person causing bodily injury
- Domestic battery with bodily injury to a person under 14 years old
- Battery on a child
- Domestic battery by bodily waste
- Battery by bodily waste when the victim is 14 years old, strangulation
- Sexual battery.
Timothy Combs, 60, pleaded guilty to three counts of battery and will serve 18 years in prison with five years suspended.
He was originally charged with:
- Aggravated battery that causes serious permanent disfigurement
- Domestic battery against a disabled person with bodily injury
- Battery resulting in bodily injury of a person under 14 years old
- Domestic battery committed in the presence of a child younger than 16 years old.
The prosecutor’s office released video of the Combs’ that shows the couple hitting and using vulgar language directed at the young children in their care.
The video was taken by an older teenage child in the couple’s care, court documents say.
The teen told officials she took the video on July 26, 2018, after seeing Diane Combs kick a 6-year-old in the face, causing the child to fall back about three feet and cry.
WARNING: Video contains violence against children and graphic language. Viewer discretion is advised.
Court documents describe the scenes shown in the video in graphic detail.
Officials say a 4-year-old and 6-year-old were standing next to the recliner Diane Combs was sitting in when she asked the 6-year-old if his pull-up pants were dry because if not, the boy would be in trouble.
She then touches the boy’s bottom and slapped him with a force that knocked him to the ground, the official describes.
The young boy is then told to approach Diane Combs and another slap is heard with Diane Combs saying, “don’t touch my mother f------ leg, I’m going to choke the f--- out of you, you b------.”
Officials who watched the video say you can hear the boy cough, gasp, and say “ow.”
Diane Combs then says, “I don’t give a s---. Get up,” as she undresses him, picks up his naked body by his neck and places him on the side of the recliner, with a diaper in his mouth.
She then says, “now squat,” and slaps the boy in the face, knocking him to the ground in front of the other young boy and says, “dumb little b------.”
Another video clip shows Timothy Combs pick up the 4-year-old boy by his left wrist, drop him to the ground, kick him, then say, “get up," a court official says.
Officials say while interviewing some of the teenage children the Combs’ fostered, deputies found images and videos of the abuse.
WARNING: Images depict obscene and graphic material. Viewer discretion is advised.
Dearborn County Sheriff’s Deputy Hayden Hummel says he went to the Combs’ house in Aurora on July 27, 2018, to conduct a welfare check after the department received a phone call from Cristy Lewis.
Lewis told the department she’d seen videos taken at the home on Jeanie Drive that showed acts of child abuse.
Court documents say she told Deputy Hummel her son gave an old cell phone to a foster child placed in the Combs’ home.
Deputy Hummel found eight children at the house when he arrived: four foster children, one adopted child, and three other children who the couple was babysitting.
He says he asked to see the cellphone of a 15-year-old foster child and found videos showing Diane Combs smack a young, naked, male child in the face, knocking him to the ground.
After seeing the video, Deputy Hummel says he called the Division of Child Services requesting an immediate response. The caseworker asked that all children be removed from the home after her assessment.
Prosecutor Deddens released a statement Tuesday following the conviction and sentence of the Combs':
“Today, thanks to the heroic efforts of a brave teenage foster child, two former Dearborn County foster parents have been convicted and sentenced on multiple counts of abuse and will serve decades in prison,” said Dearborn County Prosecutor Lynn Deddens following the sentencing hearing. The teenager captured the abuse on video and sent it to a friend, who turned it over to the police prompting an investigation which led to the arrest and conviction.
“My office will always fight for our most vulnerable citizens and will seek justice on their behalf,” said Deddens.
On July 27th, 2018, Dearborn County Sheriff’s Deputy Hayden Hummel was contacted by an individual who indicated she had received videos showing acts of abuse towards a child at the home of Tim and Diane Combs, Jeanie Drive, Aurora. This person advised her teenage son had given a cell phone to a foster child placed in the Combs’ residence. Upon visiting the home and viewing the video with permission of Tim Combs and the foster child, multiple videos documenting instances of child abuse were discovered. At that time, all of the children in the home were immediately removed and placed by the Department of Child Services.
A months long investigation followed and revealed disturbing details of the ongoing terror and abuse suffered by the children who had been in the care of Tim and Diane Combs. The Combs’ had been foster parents since 2014 and have had 38 children in their care and custody over the years. They had many children in their home at the time of the investigation ranging in age from 2 years old to aged 16. Among the children found in the home were four foster children, one child adopted by the Combs and three other children who the Combs were babysitting at the time.
One of the young victims, aged 4, interviewed at the time reported when they, “peed in our diapers and made us do wall squats and put them in our mouth,” referring to Diane. Other abuses included picking up and shaking young children, hitting, kicking, name calling, and picking up victims by the legs and dropping them on their heads.
Prosecutor Lynn Deddens expressed strong concern for the well-being of the children in this case. “This is one of the most egregious cases I have come across in my time as Prosecutor. These children are the most vulnerable among all children we strive to protect. They were abused by the very people entrusted with their care after suffering from abuse and neglect which led to their removal from their biological families.” Deddens continues, “We must seek justice in this case and ensure that Mr. and Mrs. Combs never again have the opportunity to harm children.”
The couple were both sentenced this month, with Mrs. Combs sentencing concluding today. On September 5, 2019, Tim Combs pled guilty to three counts of battery, as level 5 felonies, and will be remanded to the Indiana Department of Correction for a period of 18 years with 5 suspended. Diane Combs pled guilty to multiple counts, including aggravated battery, as level 3 felonies, and will be remanded to the Indiana Department of Correction to serve 20 years in prison followed by 12 years on probation.
“These convictions were based upon multiple documented instances of abuse, many of which were caught on video, “ says Deddens. “I am thankful for the bravery of one child whose actions likely saved the lives of the other children in the home and of the diligent work by the Dearborn County Sheriffs Department in investigating this case. Thanks to these efforts, these individuals will now spend time behind bars for their heinous crimes.”