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.


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