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Teen pleads guilty to murder

One of the four teenagers in jail for felony murder pleaded guilty in Circuit Court Thursday.
Posted on Nov. 16, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

GOSHEN — One of four teenagers charged with felony murder in an attempted home invasion case pled guilty Thursday morning in Elkhart County Circuit Court.

Jose Quiroz Jr., 17, of Goshen, pleaded guilty to the charge of murder during the commission of a felony for his connection to the attempted home invasion at 1919 Frances Ave. that left one person dead Oct. 3.

In exchange for his guilty plea, he’ll serve 45 years in prison and 10 under supervised release. His sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 13.

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.

During the plea hearing, Quiroz testified, saying he, along with Blake Layman, 17, and Levi Sparks, 17, identified some homes that could be targeted for burglary. Quiroz specifically said Sparks knocked on a few doors along Frances Avenue before deciding to break into 1919 Frances Ave.

Quiroz also said the three called Danzele Johnson, 21, and Anthony Sharp, 18, for assistance in getting into the house. He said Sparks acted as a lookout for the other four.

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.

Johnson died in the shooting, and Layman was wounded in the leg.

Sparks, Layman and Sharp Jr., all have the same charge pending. Their jury trial is scheduled for Jan. 17, 2013. 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 died.

Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill previously determined that the homeowner acted reasonably and in self-defense, he said in a press release.

Layman’s mother, Angie Johnson, said she was disappointed with the quick outcome.

“I’m disappointed that a (17)-year-old would sign a plea agreement that dramatic at this point in time of the case. We haven’t even started the case,” she said.

Angela Johnson has been working with other family members and friends asking for charges against the teenagers be dropped. She started a movement on change.org in which anyone supporting the movement can sign a petition that asks Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Hill to drop the charges and give the teenagers another chance.




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