Tracy Parham

Gary man charged with killing, burying woman

21-year-old faces 65 years in prison if convicted of murder

May 31, 2007

CROWN POINT | A 21-year-old Gary man accused of bludgeoning a woman to death and then burying her in his backyard was charged Wednesday with murder.

Louis Vela turned himself in and confessed Tuesday, which led investigators to the body of Tracy Parham, 34, police said.

Officers on Tuesday evening found her naked body wrapped in contractors garbage bags in a grave near the garage at Vela's home, 3856 Van Buren St.

Vela reportedly told police he was smoking crack with Parham on March 11, his 21st birthday. When Parham refused to have sex with him, he bashed her in the head with a lead crystal clock, police and prosecutors say in court records.

When Parham did not wake up, Vela took her to his room and had sex with her, according to the court records.

Parham's body remained in Vela's bedroom while Vela went with family members to Taco Bell and a movie in Portage to celebrate his birthday, court records allege.

Later, in the dark, Vela wrapped Parham in the large plastic bags and dug a grave for her near his backyard garage, police allege.

But when Vela's aunt took him to visit his mother in a nursing home Tuesday, Vela broke down and told the women he had killed someone on March 11, court records say. His aunt encouraged him to turn himself in and accompanied him to the Gary police station.

Vela led police through the home, pointing out objects that likely will become evidence, including bedding, the clock and the shovel with which he buried Parham, police said.

Vela was jailed without bond and faces a maximum sentence of 65 years.

Parham's daughter, Sierra Parham, 13, told The Times on Wednesday that nothing she hears about her mother and how she died will change how she feels.

"No matter what, she was always the sweetest person. She was always there for me and had my back and took care of me like she needed to," Sierra said.

Johnette Parham, the victim's mother, said even though she hadn't heard from Tracy Parham in more than two months, she didn't file a missing person's report, hoping her daughter "went out of town with her boyfriend."

"I was praying that was the situation," Johnette Parham said.

She said she learned about her daughter's death from one of Vela's family members Wednesday. She said she did not know Vela, but she is glad Vela's aunt encouraged him to do the right thing.

"I think that was very courageous and honorable of them," Johnette Parham said. "I won't judge him; I'll let God judge him."