Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

August 21, 2013

Accomplice in home invasion says he lied and was forced into deal

GOSHEN — A key witness in the felony murder trial of three young men said Wednesday he’d lied during earlier testimony.

Jose Quiroz, 17, formerly of Elkhart, also said he’d been pressured to take a plea deal in the case by prosecuting and defense attorneys. Chief Deputy Prosecutor Vicki Becker disputed that claim, and Quiroz’s former lawyer defended his conduct under oath.

Anthony Perez Sharp Jr., 19, Goshen, Blake Layman, 17, Elkhart, and Levi Sparks, 18, Elkhart, are being tried in Elkhart Circuit Court. The charges stem from a botched burglary on Elkhart’s south side Oct. 3, 2012.

Prosecutors allege that Layman, Sharp, Quiroz and Danzele Johnson broke into the home of Rodney Scott at 1919 Frances Ave. Sparks allegedly waited outside as a lookout.

Scott, awakened by the noise of the break-in, fired several shots from a .9mm handgun at the intruders. Johnson, 21, Goshen, was killed. Layman was wounded in the leg.

Prosecutors charged the alleged intruders with felony murder. Under Indiana law, if someone dies during the commission of a felony, those who were engaged in the underlying felony can be charged in the person’s death.

Late last year, Quiroz entered a plea deal with Elkhart County prosecutors. He received a 45-year sentence to the Department of Correction, plus 10 years on probation.

In court Wednesday, Quiroz said information he offered during his guilty plea was false. That testimony implicated all the defendants now on trial.

‘I don’t recall’

Quiroz indicated he’d said what attorneys wanted to hear. According to his testimony, he was fearful of receiving an enhanced prison sentence of more than 100 years. With benefit of the plea deal and good-time credit, the teen could be out of prison in 22 years or less.

Quiroz said Wednesday that he, Layman and Johnson entered the Scott home Oct. 3. He testified that Sharp wasn’t with him, and Sparks didn’t assist him.

Not recalling prior statements or events was a recurring theme in Quiroz’s testimony Wednesday. There was a key exception.

“The only thing I recall is Dan — Danzele Johnson — dying in my arms,” he said. Quiroz also said he remembered running from police.

Becker pointed out that Johnson died in Scott’s home. She asked Quiroz if that meant he was in the residence, too.

“Evidently, ma’am, yes,” he replied.

Becker also quizzed Quiroz about his November plea hearing in Circuit Court. She questioned Quiroz as to whether Judge Terry Shewmaker asked if he’d been threatened or coerced into the plea. Becker also asked Quiroz whether he provided facts about the crime during that hearing.

“I don’t recall,” the defendant replied to both queries.

Quiroz was also questioned by defense lawyers Jeff Majerek, Mark Doty and Vincent Campiti. He testified that he felt pressured by Becker and public defender Peter Todd.

“Were you fearful of receiving a much higher sentence?,” Doty asked. Yes, Quiroz said.

Under questioning by Campiti, Quiroz indicated he’d lied throughout the entire legal process.

“There was no conspiracy, was there?,” Campiti asked Quiroz, referring to the Oct. 3 break-in and the defendants.

Campiti also said that after the plea hearing, Quiroz wrote a letter to the court indicating he’d felt threatened. And on the day of his sentencing, Campiti said, Quiroz wanted to withdraw his guilty plea.

On the witness stand Wednesday, Todd testified that as a defense attorney, he’s bound by certain ethical standards. If he doesn’t follow them, he faces the revocation of his law license.

“I never threaten any of my clients,” he said. “...I never even tell my clients what to do.”

Todd indicated he outlines the range of potential legal outcomes for his clients. He said he told Quiroz there was a possibility he could face more than a maximum 65-year prison term via a criminal gang sentence enhancement.

“(Quiroz) didn’t want to go to trial,” Todd said. The attorney said he told Quiroz his only real option was to take a plea deal because it was unlikely prosecutors were going to dismiss the case.

Questioned by Becker, Todd said she hadn’t threatened Quiroz, and that neither of them told Quiroz what to say.

Portions of the transcript of Quiroz’s November plea hearing were read in court Wednesday. Quiroz testified then that before the break-in at Scott’s house, Sparks knocked on doors at a couple of different homes. There were dogs at one residence, Quiroz testified, and somebody home at another.

Quiroz said in November that he, Layman, Sharp and Johnson entered the Scott home. While they were inside, he said, someone started shooting.

“Do you understand that had you not engaged in burglary, Danzele would not be dead?” Becker asked at the prior hearing.

Yes, Quiroz had replied.

Text Only
Local News
  • GN140423 Wakarusa Musical 3 'A Kid's Life' portrays sudden techno loss WAKARUSA — The young people of our present day society don’t remember ever having lived their lives without some element of electronic gadgetry becoming involved. For them, it would be difficult to fathom the possibility of a world “off the grid.” So the fourth- and fifth-grade students of Wakarusa Elementary School will offer a comedic and chaotic interpretation of such a dilemma with their upcoming musical “A Kid’s Life.”

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140423 stress relief 03 Furry pals help GC students with dog days of finals GOSHEN - Goshen College students took a break from preparing for final exams to hangout with some four-legged friends Monday afternoon.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140423 FF spring play_3547 Fairfield students to present Oscar Wilde classic BENTON — Fairfield’s musicals and plays have recently left their status as an extracurricular activity and come under the wing of the Performing Arts Department and under the direction of Andrew Muth.

    April 23, 2014 3 Photos

  • Sheriff Brad Rogers_0657 Sheriff travels to Nev. ranch in fed dispute Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers has weighed in on a controversy surrounding a Nevada rancher, and visited the scene of the struggle.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140209 snow storm 05 Elkhart, LaGrange counties denied FEMA aid GOSHEN — Elkhart and LaGrange counties were not among the 19 Indiana counties that had financial aid approved Tuesday by FEMA for a January winter storm.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Prep Roundup BASEBALL Falcons garner road win The Fairfield Falcons posted a 5-4 victory Tuesday evening at Rochester. Dustin Everage (three innings), Andrew Bobeck (three) and Austin Christner (one) pitched for the winners. Everage struck out three to earn the

    April 23, 2014

  • Akela.jpg SLIDESHOW: Pets of the Week Available cats and dogs at the Humane Society of Elkhart County. These loving animals are looking for permanent homes.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN0423 BC IN Common Core Indiana panel approves new school standards

    A panel of Indiana business and education leaders were met with boos and jeers from attendees after they voted overwhelmingly Monday to support new math and English standards set to replace the Common Core in classrooms this fall.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • The week in photos

    April 22, 2014

  • GN140421 board of works BOARD OF WORKS: Properties deemed uninhabitable

    Repairs still need to be made to two Goshen properties that had been targeted by the city Board of Public Works and Safety.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo


Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.

There has been discussion at West Goshen Elementary School to require mandatory student uniforms in the future. How do you feel about the prospect of mandatory student uniforms in a public school environment?

I think it’s an excellent idea that is way overdue
I think it’s a bad idea and would be restrictive for students and parents.
     View Results
AP Video
Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly Pipeline Opponents Protest on National Mall Hagel Gets Preview of New High-tech Projects S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter New Yorkers Celebrate Cherry Blossom Blooms SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Justice Dept. Broadening Criteria for Clemency Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers 'Miss Meadows' Takes Holmes Back to Her Roots Biden: Russia Must Stop Talking, Start Acting David Moyes Out As Manchester United Manager Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet Stowaway Teen Forces Review of Airport Security