Halligan sentenced to 50 years in prison for attack

A judge has sentenced a local man accused of attempting to kill a professional ice skater and instructor to the maximum sentence allowed under a plea agreement.

Ryan T. Halligan, 30, was sentenced Thursday to serve 50 years in prison for his brutal attack against Emaly “Emma” Baxter outside of the Hamilton Center Ice Arena on Oct. 23, 2020.

“This is one of the worst, if not the worst, crime I’ve seen while I’ve been on the bench,” Bartholomew Superior Court 1 Judge James Worton said. One key factor making the crime so terrible is that the attacker and victim had never met prior to the attack, the judge said.

The sentence breaks down to 35 years for attempted murder as a Level 1 felony, as well as an additional 15 years for a habitual offender enhancement. Worton ordered the sentences be served consecutively, and no prison time will be suspended.

Halligan was also ordered to pay Baxter $10,234 restitution for the four months of work she missed while recovering from her extensive injuries following the attack.

Among the injuries listed by both the victim and deputy prosecutor Joshua Scherschel were 14 knife wounds, a punctured lung, a cracked skull and a concussion. Baxter also testified her hair was so matted by blood from her wounds that her entire head had to be shaved, Baxter said.

But the most painful injury, according to the victim, was when Halligan put a thumb in one of her eyes.

While on the stand, Baxter said she was first approached by Halligan on Oct. 23, 2020 when he asked for a cigarette. Although she gave him three, Halligan began to get angry when a lighter wouldn’t work, she said. After he began yelling, Baxter attempted to distance herself from him and it was a short time later that Halligan smashed his car into Baxter’s vehicle, she said.

During the hearing, Scherschel played a 911 call that the victim made during the crime. After she made an emotional plea to the dispatcher for help, Baxter could be heard screaming while being attacked. While she made it out of her car, Halligan placed his knee on Baxter’s neck in the parking lot and greatly restricted her ability to breathe, a probable cause affidavit states.

Less than three minutes after Baxter phoned 911, Columbus Police officer Frank Dickman arrived which prompted Halligan to flee on foot east over the pedestrian bridge crossing Haw Creek. But he was soon caught hiding behind several stacked sheets of plywood on a nearby house porch.

The Ford Fusion Halligan was driving that was involved in the crash with Baxter’s vehicle had been reported stolen in Indianapolis, according to court documents. Worton also ordered Halligan to pay the owner of the stolen car, Ryan Nichols, restitution in the amount of $7,116 for the damaged vehicle.

While making a statement to the court, Halligan’s apology included the statement that he was on illegal drugs that day, and had not taken his prescribed medication.

It was an excuse the judge didn’t buy.

“This crime was not caused by drug addiction,” Worton said. “There are plenty of drug addicts that don’t attack strangers.”

When Baxter was given a chance to address Halligan, she spoke calmly and compassionately to her attacker.

“I tried to help you,” Baxter told Halligan. “I’m a normal human, and I know people make mistakes. I hope you can learn to respect other humans and learn how precious life really is.”

But when asked by public defender Aaron Edwards if she forgives Halligan, Baxter replied forgiveness will take much more time, and will require a genuine lifestyle change on Halligan’s part.

Halligan said he will appeal the sentence, prompting Worton to appoint attorney Mike DeArmitt to handle future appeal hearings.

Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit filed by Halligan against Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers, Jail Commander Maj. John Martoccia and two corrections officers has been scaled back in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis. Halligan was originally asking for $150,000 in damages regarding his treatment in the Bartholomew County Jail.

In a Nov. 22 decision, Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the Southern District of Indiana removed Myers as a defendant because there was no evidence regarding the sheriff’s involvement in his jail placement, the judge said.

She also dismissed Halligan’s allegations that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated because no direct violation was presented.

But Pratt said the court will proceed with a second amended lawsuit filed by Halligan based on his claim that he was housed for approximately three weeks with no time outside his cell, as well as an allegation that he was housed in segregation for approximately one year with no period review of his situation at the jail.

Only members of the jail staff are currently named defendants, Pratt said.