Goshen News, Goshen, IN

August 23, 2013

Teens found guilty of felony murder

By SCOTT WEISSER
THE GOSHEN NEWS

GOSHEN — Three teens were convicted of felony murder Thursday night in Goshen.

The jury’s verdict against Anthony Perez Sharp Jr., 19, Goshen, Blake Layman, 17, Elkhart, and Levi Sparks, 18, Elkhart, was announced shortly before midnight in Elkhart Circuit Court.

There were sobs and anguish from the defendants’ family and supporters in the courtroom as the verdict against each teen was read, one after the other. Their anger and grief continued as they exited the Goshen courthouse.

“It’s not fair!” a woman on the west lawn of the courthouse screamed.

The teens had been charged after a botched burglary on Elkhart’s south side Oct. 3, 2012.

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

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

Prosecutors charged the 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.

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.

On Thursday, prosecution and defense lawyers agreed the jury could consider a lesser charge of burglary. Though presented with that option, jurors returned verdicts of murder after close to five hours of deliberation.

Layman, Sharp and Sparks are scheduled to be sentenced in Circuit Court Sept. 12.