Elizabeth Lepucki

Judge hands out 65-year sentence in murder case

VALPARAISO | Mark Dunn told the court Friday his sister, Elizabeth Lepucki, had stayed with her boyfriend, John Norris, not out of love, but out of fear.

Dunn called Norris an animal and described how he mistreated Lepucki before beating her so badly June 18, 2008, that she later died.

"This court should show no compassion for this sentencing," Dunn said.

Porter Superior Judge Bill Alexa sentenced Norris to the maximum 65-year sentence, but suspended 10 years to be served on formal probation upon his release from prison. The sentence can be completed in half the time with good behavior and participation in various prison programs.

Norris, a Valparaiso resident who was appointed the continued use of a public defender after announcing his plans to file an appeal, said he was sorry and that he will have to live with his girlfriend's death the rest of his life.

"Beth was my best friend," he said. "I miss Beth more than words can ever express."

A jury found Norris guilty last month of murdering Lepucki. An autopsy revealed she had 46 old and new bruises on her body and died as a result of bleeding on the brain caused by blunt force trauma to her head.

Deputy Prosecutor Tammy Gregg said Friday the evidence presented during the trial was beyond horrifying and predicted Norris would continue with his violence if released from custody.

Defense attorney Dolores Aylesworth said Norris was abandoned by his father at age 3 and lived in fear from the ages of 5 to 15 with a stepfather who drank alcohol and verbally abused with his mother.

"Tragically, cycles of abuse repeat themselves," she said.

The Rev. Leonard Dubi, of St. Victor's Catholic Church in Calumet City, spoke out on Norris' behalf.

He said Norris did a good job while working as a custodian and maintenance man and is a kind person. He asked the judge for leniency.

Dubi said he did sit through the trial and did not know all the facts in the case.

While the sentence fell short of the maximum prison time sought by prosecutors and the victim's family, Lepucki's oldest daughter, Aubrey Lepucki, of Merrillville, was not upset.

"We're just glad it's over," she said. "We hope he doesn't get far with the appeal."

Norris will be back before Alexa on June 14 to stand trial on an unrelated charge of failing to register as a sex offender.

Preliminary hearings in that case are set for April 5 and May 10.

Jaron Mitchell

Teen Gets Minimum Sentence for Murder of Pregnant Woman

Gunman's friends say 45-year term still too long; prosecutors say they're happy

July 2, 2008

An Indianapolis teenager whose stray bullet killed a pregnant woman in her apartment has gotten the minimum sentence for murder.

Jeffrey Whitsey, 19, was sentenced to 45 years, a term which with good behavior could free him when he's 41. Outside the courtroom, roles were reversed, with Whitsey's friends complaining it's still too much, while deputy Marion County prosecutor Courtney Curtis says she's satisfied.

"Any time a person who's going to try to be the big man in his neighborhood takes a gun and kills two innocent people, and then spends the prime of his life in the Department of Correction, we are happy," Curtis says.

Jamitra Mitchell, 22, had just moved into an eastside apartment to get away from a neighborhood she considered unsafe for her three children. She was killed last April when Whitsey fired a gun outside the complex in an argument with several other people.

Deputy prosecutor Courtney Curtis asked unsuccessfully for separate sentences for the murders of Jamitra Mitchell and her unborn son Jaron, who was nearly full-term. Marion Superior Judge Patricia Gifford gave a shorter sentence based on Whitsey's youth and the fact he'd never been in trouble before.

Whitsey said he was sorry about what happened, but insisted he didn't fire the fatal shot. He complained witnesses he expected to back up his story didn't show up for his trial.

Curtis says cell phone audio and digital video introduced at trial make clear Whitsey did fire his gun. And Whitsey acknowledged under questioning from Gifford he hadn't given his lawyer the names of the witnesses he believed would clear him.

Mitchell's mother, Lillie Vaughn-Butler, says she's just glad Whitsey will pay a price for "doing something stupid."

See post for dear mother Jamitra Mitchell here.

Brittany Alexander

Man Arrested After Woman Fatally Shot

Officers See Man Toss Handgun

POSTED: 6:26 am EDT June 29, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS -- A man was arrested Saturday night, minutes after a woman was found fatally shot on Indianapolis' north side.

Police were called to 3301 N. Orchard Ave. at about 6:50 p.m. As they arrived, they saw a man, identified as Walter Hawkins, 26, coming from the direction of the home.

"They saw him throw a weapon. He was immediately detained at that time," said Indianapolis Metro police Sgt. Matt Mount.

Police said the woman, Brittany Alexander, 20, was found dead in the home. Officers said the victim did not live at the home but might have been staying with a friend.

Police arrested Hawkins on a murder charge. Investigators said they don't have a motive in the shooting.


July 1, 2008

Brittany J. Alexander 20, Indianapolis, IN, died June 28, 2008. Brittany was a Home Health Aide with QRL. She was known for her caring and outgoing personality. She is survived by her mother and step father, Vickie and David Knight; step brothers, Nicholas and Christopher Knight; half brother, Brian Joseph Alexander and grandparents, Wayne and Patricia Bowers. Services will be private. Burial will be in Washington Park East Cemetery. Contributions in memory of Brittany may be made to Community Health Network Foundation. Online condolences may be made at