A woman passed out after drinking. A man dumped her in the cold to die, court docs say.

·3 min read

An Indianapolis man charged in a woman's death in the cold behind a laundromat in February told police he dragged the woman into the snow after she fell asleep while they were "hanging out and drinking" in his car, court records show.

Justin Holman, 36, was charged with reckless homicide more than four months after police found 50-year-old Shanel Smith dead in a snowbank in the early hours of Feb. 19.

Surveillance video from the night, obtained by IndyStar, part of the USA TODAY Network, shows a man dragging a seemingly unresponsive Smith out of the passenger seat of a black sedan before throwing the woman's belongings next to her and driving away.

An autopsy conducted the same day found Smith died of "environmental cold exposure," but the Marion County Coroner told IndyStar Smith's death was ruled a homicide because the video showed the man intentionally leaving the unconscious woman in harsh elements.

A still image of the black sedan moments before Shanel Smith was left behind the laundromat on the east side of Indianapolis in February 2021.
A still image of the black sedan moments before Shanel Smith was left behind the laundromat on the east side of Indianapolis in February 2021.

Investigators were able to identify Holman as a suspect by matching some of the Pontiac G6's characteristics seen in the footage with other street surveillance video, according to a probable cause affidavit.

A day after the incident, police tracked the car to a residence half a mile from the laundromat and found Holman, who "put on what appeared to be the same jacket and hat as the suspect seen in the video who pulled Ms. Smith from the vehicle and left her in the snow and ice" before speaking with detectives, according to the affidavit.

Holman told detectives he and Smith had been "hanging out and drinking" in his car between the laundromat and adjacent liquor store the afternoon of the incident. He said Smith had fallen asleep and "would not wake up so he pulled her out of the vehicle and left," investigators said.

The area behind the laundromat in the 9900 block of East 38th Street where 50-year-old Shanel Smith was found dead Feb. 19, 2021.
The area behind the laundromat in the 9900 block of East 38th Street where 50-year-old Shanel Smith was found dead Feb. 19, 2021.

'Everyone is very upset'

Though police identified Holman as a suspect a day after the incident, he was formally charged with reckless homicide on June 29 and arrested two days later.

The coroner's office gave police its homicide ruling on April 30, the office told IndyStar, and toxicology tests can take anywhere from eight to 12 weeks for results.

"Once this is determined to be a homicide, the criminal investigation takes another turn," IMPD Officer Genae Cook, a spokesperson for the department, said, noting she cannot go into the details of an ongoing investigation. "All that stuff takes time."

Holman is out of jail on a $3,000 bond, records show, and a pretrial hearing in the case is set for Oct. 5.

For Smith's family, the arrest of a suspect in the case comes as welcome news. But for some, the charges against Holman are too light.

"Everyone is very upset ... that he is only locked up for a level 5 (felony)," John Wallace, the father of Smith's two children, ages 10 and 12, said of the charges against Holman.

"We are not very happy with the case so far," Wallace added. "My kids will never be able to see their mother ever again because of what he's done."

Follow Lawrence Andrea on Twitter @lawrencegandrea.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana man charged for dumping passed out woman in the cold to die

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