Gross received 50 years in prison each for the deaths of Jagtar Bhatti, 55, and Pawan Singh, 20. The sentences were ordered to be served consecutively, or back-to-back, resulting in a 100-year term in prison.
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.
Gross admitted during his plea hearing that he had planned to rob the store, located at 401 Middlebury St., on Sept. 5, 2013 with Kevin Moore. The pair swapped shoes because they thought Moore’s bright red shoes would be easily recognized, Gross said.
Bhatti and Singh, the owner and an employee, were shot and killed during the robbery.
Because Gross pleaded guilty without a plea agreement in place, he has the right to appeal his sentence within 30 days. He told the court he intends to file an appeal.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Majerek had asked that Judge Terry Shewmaker order Gross’s prison terms to be served concurrently. He argued that the fact that Gross was not the shooter, combined with his history of mental illness — including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia — warranted a lesser sentence.
Majerek said Gross was involved in the robbery plot because he “wants to follow and be a part of something,” but he had no idea the people in the store would be hurt.
"I know he’s got a lot of remorse,” Majerek said, adding that Gross had been unable to look at the graphic crime scene photos.
Deputy Prosecutor David Francisco said that Gross was part of something — ”a wanton, callous double murder.”
He said Bhatti and Pawan helped the community by extending credit and even giving food away for free when customers ran out of food stamps and couldn’t afford to pay.
Francisco said Gross was not just an accomplice who traded shoes with Moore, but was an active participant in the robbery. He said Gross went into the store before Moore to do reconnaissance and see who was inside, then left and waited for Moore in a nearby alley and helped him dispose of the weapon.
While he may not have intended for anyone to die, Francisco said Gross should have known that was a possibility when Moore entered the store with a loaded gun.
Gross told Judge Shewmaker he thinks about Bhatti and Singh ”every night and every day” and had no idea Moore was going to kill them.
He said he wants his three daughters to make better choices.
"I want to tell my kids the road daddy went down ain’t the road to go,” he said. “Everybody ain’t your friend.”
Moore, 29, of Elkhart was sentenced in April to 120 years in prison after pleading guilty by mental illness to two counts of murder.