CROWN POINT, Ind. (STMW) -- A Gary, Ind., man was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2011 murder and sexual assault of a Griffith, Ind., woman who gave a stranger a ride home from a restaurant.
Robert Lewis III, 41, showed no reaction as Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell pronounced the sentence and did not speak during the hearing.
Boswell found that the state had proven the aggravator outlined in law — that Lewis intentionally killed Jennifer Kocsis while committing or attempting to commit criminal deviate conduct. The judge specifically rejected a mitigating factor offered by defense attorney T. Edward Page — that Lewis was so intoxicated he couldn't appreciate the criminality of his conduct on the night of the murder.
Deputy prosecutor Catherine Breitweiser-Hurst, who presented evidence in the case with deputy prosecutor Reginald Marcus, argued that the injuries Kocsis sustained — multiple blunt-force trauma and manual strangulation — as well as a broken clavicle and broken ribs, showed the intentional nature of the killing. Evidence presented during the 10-day trial showed a bloody shoe print on Kocsis' arm and blood spatter radiating upward from Kocsis' head.
Her badly beaten, partially clothed body was found behind the shuttered Riley School at 1301 E. 43rd Avenue in Gary, about seven hours after she left Pepe's Restaurant in Griffith.
At about 2 a.m. April 2, 2011, Kocsis and Lewis left the restaurant where she had gone to sing karaoke.
Kocsis' mother, Linda Carey, described her daughter as a vivacious woman who lived life to the fullest, despite losing sight in her right eye as a teen and struggling to maintain her vision in her left eye because of problems with her retinas. Kocsis, a Ball State university graduate and former schoolteacher, deeply loved her family and friends, Carey said.
Carey said the beating her daughter suffered showed that her daughter fought blindly for her life after numerous blows to the head likely blinded her left eye.
Carey described the weeks she spent in the hospital after her daughter was born three months' premature. "She began life fighting and sadly, she had to end life fighting," Carey said.
Additional security was in place at Monday's hearing. Five special operations response team officers from the Lake County Jail were there because of a barrage of profanity Lewis had unleashed after he was convicted Oct. 11. Jurors reached that verdict in about four hours, but were unable to reach an unanimous decision on the sentence, so by law it fell to Boswell to decide.
Monday, Lewis apologized to Boswell for that outburst.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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