Christopher Ray Keller (Madison Courier file photo by Mark Campbell)
Christopher Ray Keller (Madison Courier file photo by Mark Campbell)
A Madison man who pleaded guilty and received a maximum sentence by Jefferson Circuit Judge D.J. Mote for the aggravated battery of an 18-month-old toddler who had been left in his care has lost his appeal for a sentence reduction.

Christopher Ray Keller, 37, had pleaded guilty to four counts of Level 3 felony aggravated battery in connection with the beating, choking, dropping and falling on his stepson at multiple times over a 10-hour period on June 7, 2019, while the boy’s mother was at work.

The child, who was later taken to the King’s Daughters’ Hospital Emergency Room for treatment and transferred to Louisville, was “covered head to toe with bruises,” and suffered four compression fractures to his spine, bite marks, a liver injury and numerous other trauma, in an attack that was recorded on a video surveillance camera that was admitted as evidence during his sentencing hearing.

In addition, Keller encouraged his own young daughter to participate in the attack and later tried to say the boy’s injuries were a result of that “horse play” and that his daughter had “kicked his butt.” He also later threatened the boy’s mother, his wife at the time, that he would “make her life miserable” if she pursued the case with police and “encouraged” her to kill herself.

Mote accepted Keller’s guilty plea under an agreement the defense negotiated with the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office. After listening and reviewing aggravating and mitigating evidence in the case, Mote followed the prosecution’s recommendation and sentenced Keller to serve four maximum 16-year terms in the Indiana Department of Corrections and further ordered that the sentences should run consecutively for a total of 64 years in prison.

Citing Keller’s premeditation of his crimes, his lack of remorse toward the victim’s mother and the heinous nature of how he battered the boy and involved the other child in the assault as aggravating factors, Mote agreed in his closing comments and gave Keller the maximum sentence.

“It shows that he is not only a risk to the children in these videos, but any other person in the community,” Mote said, later adding, “I won’t go so far as to say that Mr. Keller’s children are better off . . . and the hardship will be significant, but I cannot conclude that it’s undue. The Court gives very little weight to remorse.”

Keller had also argued that he “was caring for his daughter and two boys while under the influence of methamphetamine, Subutex and heroin” but Mote noted that even if the Court credited that as a mitigating circumstance, it was not sufficient for an earlier release because those addictions actually make Keller less suitable for release to raise his children.

The three judge Court of Appeals panel rejected Keller’s argument that Mote’s sentencing order was “an abuse of discretion” and that the judge “did not adequately explain why consecutive sentences were warranted.”

The Court’s ruling was written by Judge Robert R. Altice Jr. with Judge L. Mark Bailey and Judge Terry A. Crone concurring.

Keller also argued at the appeal that his character did not warrant such a substantial sentence and that his prison term is just one year less than the maximum sentence for a murder.

“Regarding Keller’s character, we note that he has a criminal history that includes convictions for battery and strangulation. Keller also admitted to using four different drugs while he was charged with the care of his two-year old daughter and his fiancé’s two young children. As he abused Child, he encouraged his two-year-old daughter to participate. After being confronted with the injuries to Child, Keller encouraged Mother (his wife at the time) to kill herself and threatened to make her life miserable. We find no compelling evidence in the record that casts Keller’s character in a positive light ...

“... Although Keller did not inflict fatal injuries on Child, the impact of Keller’s abuse will be lifelong. The nature of the offense is brutal, and Keller showed no restraint or regard for Child. In short, we do not find Keller’s sentence to be inappropriate in light of his character and the nature of the offense.”