MARION, Ind. (WANE) –A jury has reached a guilty verdict in the murder trial of Amanda Carmack. The Gas City woman had been accused of strangling her stepdaughter.
Testimony wrapped up early Friday and jury deliberations began shortly after 1 p.m. and they reached a verdict at around 4 p.m.
Amanda D. Carmack was charged with of Murder, Neglect of a Dependent Resulting in Death, Domestic Battery Resulting in Death to a Person Under 14, and Strangulation after police found 10-year-old Skylea Carmack’s body in a shed September of 2019.
The jury will reconvene Monday to consider whether Carmack should be sentenced to life without parole.
Skylea was last seen Aug. 31, 2019. A Silver Alert was issued as Gas City Police and members of the community passed out fliers and searched for the girl.
Days later, Carmack admitted to strangling the girl to death in a shed behind the family’s East South D Street home. Skylea’s body was found stashed in the shed, in plastic trash bags.
Carmack’s first trial ended with a mistrial in November after multiple people involved with the case tested positive for COVID-19.
This trial began early Monday with jury selection at the Bethel Worship Center. With a jury seated Tuesday, proceedings began in the Grant Circuit Court.
DAY 1 of testimony
The state was the first to give its opening statement. State prosecutor Evan Hammond told the jury the case will be difficult, not because of the facts, but because of what they will hear and see. During his statement, he talked about the strangulation aspect of the case.
He said Carmack tried to strangle Skylea with her bare hands, but after that failed she used a pair of jeans and wrapped them around Skylea’s neck. Prosecutor Hammond said the jeans were tied so tightly that the medical examiner performing the autopsy said it’s one of the tightest knots he has seen in his career.
The state also mentioned that when Indiana State Police (ISP) interviewed Carmack, they administered a polygraph exam. According to the state, the questions asked were: did you cause Skylea to go missing? Are you involved? Do you know where she is?
Carmack answered no to all the questions and failed the test.
When Skylea’s body was found, the state said air fresheners, dryer sheets and candles were used to mask the smell. In addition, items in the shed were piled on top of the plastic trash bag that contained her body.
According to Carmack’s defense attorney David Payne, this was not an act of murder because it wasn’t premeditated. He stressed that his client was suffering from depression and migraines that got worse a couple of weeks before the killing.
He said that is why she can’t remember many details about the killing. He added that this isn’t murder, but a tragic case where the stepmother snapped, and it’s manslaughter. He also said his client isn’t guilty on any other charges.
The first round of witnesses took the stand on Tuesday. They included the Gas City Chief of Police, a captain and a patrolman who all worked the case.
DAY 2 of testimony
On Wednesday, the state called a supervisor with the Department of Child Services who said during the search for Skylea, she interviewed two other children under Carmack’s care. She said when interviewing them, the children got emotional at the sound of Carmack’s name.
The defense tried to object the statement but Judge Mark Spitzer over ruled.
Another state witness was a detective on the case. During his testimony, he laid out how the body was found in the shed, in three plastic bags with dryer sheets and inside of a wooden trunk. According to the detective, a lot of thought went into hiding Skylea’s body.
During the cross examination, the defense continued to argue that this was not murder, its manslaughter because Carmack snapped and it wasn’t premediated.
Defense Attorney David Payne argued that it didn’t seem like Carmack was trying to hide the body, because it was hidden in an obvious area and the smell would have been noticeable.
The state’s witness fired back saying he noticed candles were being lit in the shed after the investigation started. The defense asked the detective if Carmack was trying cover up the killing, why didn’t she dispose the body. The detective said the house was under 24-hour surveillance after Skylea was reported missing, and there was no way Amanda Carmack could remove the body without anyone noticing.
Police did have a search warrant, however the defense questioned why there wasn’t a consent to search. The detective admitted that neither Carmack nor Skylea’s father gave consent. He added that with a search warrant, verbal consent from the owners was not necessary during the process.
WANE 15 was not allowed inside of the courtroom and watched via live stream. The camera angle is only of the witness stand and never showed Carmack or the jury.
Another witness from Wednesday was the ISP Detective who interviewed Carmack, after Skylea was reported missing.
During the initial interview with police, Carmack told the detective that Skylea was in trouble for lying and stealing the day of the killing. Carmack mentioned that she had seven children in her care and was a stay-at-home mom. She added that Skylea said she wanted to runaway and live with her sister.
The detective continued to ask Carmack a series of questions, including, “Where do you think she is right now?” Carmack cried and paused for nearly a minute and said the park. She was also asked, “Do you think she was scared of you?” Carmack responded, “I do yell a lot.”
The ISP detective continued to press Carmack, stating, “You were the last adult that saw her”, “Was it too much?” “Were you pushed over the edge?” “Did you just have enough?” The detective also told Carmack that if she did it, and confessed, police could help her.
During the initial interview, the detective told Carmack that no one saw Skylea leaving the house that night, and video surveillance in the area never showed her leaving. She added that if she never left, she should still be in the house. Carmack cried and said, “but I can’t find her in the house.”
After the playing of the interview, the state prosecutor mentioned that Carmack remembered every detail of that night, but couldn’t remember anything regarding Skylea’s disappearance.
The detective said during questioning, Carmack held her head down and answered only a few questions. When asked “did you kill Skylea?”, according to the detective, Carmack didn’t answer, she only stared.
The video of the interview also showed the detective telling Carmack that she couldn’t imagine being in her situation and she understands that it could be stressful.
During the cross examination, Attorney Payne asked if the detective is allowed to lie to a suspect. When she confirmed this, she was asked if she was lying or telling the truth when she empathized with Carmack stressed with multiple kids. She said she was telling the truth. He also asked if she wouldn’t know what to do if she was homeschooling and a home alone all day. The detective confirmed this.
The defense also asked the detective about interviewing the children from the home without a parent present or a “friendly face.” The detective reiterated that the kids didn’t know her previously. She confirmed, when asked, that the children appeared scared when talking to her.
DAY 3 of testimony
On Thursday, the state called the ISP Sergeant who conducted the polygraph test to Carmack to the witness stand.
According to the ISP Sergeant, a +2 was needed to pass and a failing score was a -4. In testimony, the sergeant said Carmack scored a -19.
During cross questioning, it was confirmed that Carmack had marijuana and alcohol in her system during the time of the polygraph exam. Carmack’s defense attorney asked if there was a lawyer present when she agreed to the test or during the exam, the sergeant said no.
Another witness that was called to the stand, was the ISP Sergeant who was the criminal investigator Carmack made the confession to. He was also one of the officers who found Skylea’s body in the shed.
According to his testimony, Carmack voluntarily walked to the police department where, after nearly two hours, she admitted to killing Skylea. She told police that she did regret everything. Following her confession, police searched the shed. They found Skylea, her backpack and pillow.
While police were searching for Skylea, Carmack wrote letters to different family members. One letter was addressed Skylea’s father. Carmack also wrote a letter to each child, including Skylea. The last letter that was read in court was the one addressed to Skylea.
In the letter, Carmack apologized to her deceased stepdaughter and said she messed everything up. She wrote that she fell in love with Skylea and her freckles the first time she met her. Carmack added that she remembered the times when they used to fall asleep together watching movies. She wrote that she wishes they could go back to those days.
She ended the note stating that she will dream of Skylea for the rest of her life and that she loved her and was sorry.
The surviving spouse and children never received the letters because police took it into evidence.
DAY 4 of testimony
Friday morning, Skylea’s father, Kevin Carmack, took the stand. Kevin said he was 650 miles away from home on the road as a semi driver when Amanda called him and said Skylea was missing. Kevin said he told his wife to report her as “missing” because she had run away before.
When he got back to Gas City, Kevin said he began searching for his daughter – as Amanda stayed home. At one point, he said he went into the shed and saw the candles burning and thought it was odd, but Amanda told him she’d stepped in feces and was masking the smell.
Kevin said he was hopeful his daughter would come home, until police called him and told him Amanda admitted Skylea’s body was in the shed and she was dead.
At that point, Kevin became emotional on the stand.
Around 10 a.m. Friday, the state and defense both rested their cases. The trial will conclude with closing arguments later Friday.
WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee is covering the trial in Grant County. Follow her on Twitter at @BreBrownleeTV for developments.