GOSHEN — Richard Gross, one of two suspects charged with murder for their connection to a double homicide earlier this year, pleaded guilty just minutes before his trial started Monday, Dec. 9.
Gross, 22, of Elkhart, pleaded guilty to two counts of murder, according to Chief Deputy Prosecutor Vicki Becker.
Gross’s trial was scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. Monday with jury selection, and he pleaded guilty shortly after 8 a.m., Becker said.
Counsel filed an open plea, which means Judge Terry Shewmaker could sentence any punishment specified by law, according to a news release from the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney.
Both parties will be able to argue Gross’ sentence — and even present evidence — during his sentencing hearing.
A maximum murder sentence is 65 years in prison — Gross faces a maximum sentence of 130 years.
According to the agreement filed, Gross will reserve the right to appeal his sentence.
The sentencing is scheduled for March 14, 2014, in Elkhart Circuit Court.
During his plea hearing, Gross admitted he assisted in a Sept. 5 robbery at Saleh’s Market, a convenience store at 401 Middlebury St. Jagtar Bhatti, 55, and Pawan Singh, 20, the owner and an employee of the convenience store, were shot and killed during the robbery.
During questioning by his attorney, Gross told the court he planned the robbery at Saleh’s Market with his co-defendant, Kevin Moore, and that they even traded their shoes because they thought Moore’s red shoes would give him away.
Gross also said he did not know someone would get killed during the robbery.
Gross’ charges are felony murder because in Indiana a person committing a felony can be charged with felony murder if another person dies during the commission of the crime.
Moore was also charged with two counts of murder. Moore was arrested hours after the shooting at Saleh’s Market. His trial is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2014.