GOSHEN — Jose Quiroz Jr., 17, of Goshen, pleaded guilty this morning, Nov. 15, in Elkhart Circuit Court to the charge of murder during the commission of a felony in a home invasion that left one dead in Elkhart last month.
In exchange for his guilty plea, he’ll serve 45 years in prison and 10 on probation.
Elkhart Circuit Judge Terry Shewmaker accepted the plea, meaning the sentence is a done deal at a Dec. 13 sentencing hearing. Deputy Public Defender Peter Todd worked with Chief Deputy Prosecutor Vicki Becker to get the deal for Quiroz, a deal which will have Quiroz in prison for the minimum possible term.
In the hearing today, Nov. 15, Becker asked Quiroz about the details of that night, asking if they’d targeted other houses beforehand, and he admitted that yes, Levi Sparks had knocked on a few other doors to see if they were safe to enter.
The group broke into 1919 Frances Ave. on Oct. 3, grabbing knives to try to rob Rodney Scott, the homeowner. Scott heard the intruders and ran downstairs, firing five shots.
Danzelle Johnson, 21, died in the shooting, and Blake Layman, 16, was wounded.
Quiroz is the first of the group to plead guilty, while Sparks, 17, of 927 McPherson St., Elkhart; Layman; and Anthony Sharp Jr., 18, of 1618 William Henry Lane, all have the same charge pending. Under Indiana law, if anyone dies during the commission of a felony, everyone committing that felony can be charged with murder, even if it’s a conspirator who dies.
The murder charge carries from 45 to 65 years in prison.
Scott was cleared of any wrongdoing for defending his home.