GOSHEN — The jury trial for three teenagers charged with felony murder was slowed Wednesday morning in Elkhart’s Circuit Court when one of the witnesses refused to cooperate with prosecuting attorneys.
Blake Layman, 17; Levi Sparks, 18; and Anthony Sharp, 19; face up to 65 years in prison if they are convicted. The three teens are accused of being responsible for the death of Danzele Johnson, 21, during a deadly attempted burglary at 1919 Frances Ave.
Jose Quiroz, one of the people who broke into the residence at 1919 Frances Ave. Oct. 3, was called to testify this morning, Aug. 21.
Quiroz pleaded guilty to felony murder November, saying he, along with Layman and Sparks, 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 told the court Sparks acted as a lookout for the other four.
Quiroz was sentenced to 45 years in prison and 10 years on probation December, 2012.
Quiroz had a different attitude Wednesday morning when he was called to testify. When Becker started asking him questions, Quiroz began pleading the fifth amendment.
The jury was sent out on a recess while the attorneys questioned Quiroz.
Once the jury was cleared, chief deputy prosecutor Vicki Becker asked Quiroz if he could recall the testimony he gave during his plea hearing.
Quiroz said he could not recall anything he said during the hearing. Becker then asked Quiroz if he could recall a conversation she had with him Tuesday night. Quiroz said he did not.
Becker requested Quiroz be treated as a hostile witness. When a witness is declared hostile, the prosecuting attorney is allowed to ask more specific questions leading to an answer.
Quiroz, answered reluctantly, and in some occasions he didn’t answer.
Judge Terry Shewmaker called a recess for the court and sent the jury out to lunch. The trial is expected to continue Wednesday afternoon with Quiroz’s testimony in front of the jury.
The first witness to testify this morning was , Carol Black, was the driver of a school bus from Hawthorne Elementary School who was driving in the neighborhood of 1919 Frances Ave. the afternoon of Oct. 3.
She told the jury she saw a young man walking down Roys Avenue crossing Blaine Avenue. She described him as white, tall and with short hair, and he kept walking down the street looking back. At some point the young man started running before Black lost sight of him, she said.
Black also told the jury that shortly after she saw a young man with darker complexion running down an alley between Roys and Frances Avenues, and two police officers chasing after him.