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Sunday August 19, 2018

opening statements in mc death trial

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 16:04 PM
Written by Stan Maddux
Category: Local News

Prosecutors began laying out evidence Tuesday in the trial of a man just 16 when he allegedly took the life of a 17-year old girl in 2011 with a gunshot during an altercation at a birthday party in Michigan City.

Charles Gerron is charged with murder two months after a plea agreement calling for just one-year in jail and five-years on work release for Class C felony criminal recklessness was rejected by LaPorte Superior Court 1 Judge Michael Bergerson, who felt the case should be decided by a jury.

Prosecutors say they entered into the plea after a key witness recanted their story.

NeKeisha Hodges-Hawkins, 17, died when struck in the back of the head by one of several rounds fired when an altercation broke out during a friend's 16th birthday party at Memorial Park on the city's east side, authorities said.

Gerron was arrested in December a month after her father, Kalvon, and other family members upset with the case still being unsolved picketed outside the police station.

They later expressed outrage over the plea and demanded a trial if it meant Gerron being found not guilty and not receiving any time behind bars.

In his opening statements, LaPorte County Prosecutor John Espar cautioned jurors not to be confused over inconsistencies that might lead them to believe someone else was responsible for the death.

Espar said what matters most will be evidence, including testimony from two close acquaintances of the defendant, he felt will make clear who fired the fatal shot.

He also revealed plans to play an audio recording of the gunfire featuring the sound of a gun being racked when the first three shots were fired into the air.

The final rounds were aimed toward 30 or more people and the recording will show those were fired more rapidly.

''In the wake of these rapid fired shots, the street was filled with humanity,'' Espar said.

Defense attorney Scott King said his client admitted firing a gun but there's no proof who shot the one that killed the girl.

However, King pointed out another man was convicted of shooting one of the rounds that hit

James Sanders in the leg.

''Sanders was close to her when they were shot,'' King said.

A then 18-year old Cameron Kent was later sentenced to 18 months probation and under plea agreed to cooperate in the death portion of the investigation, according to court records.

The first witness called by the prosecution was the victim's mother, Janice Hodges-Hawkins, who revealed she and her husband watched TV with NeKeisha after she had come home from work that evening.

She later left then called asking for a ride home.

Janice said she was getting ready to pick her up when notified she had been shot.

She drove to the park and saw her daughter covered by sheet.

''She was laying there on the ground,'' Janice said.

According to authorities, the party ended after 11 p.m. when a dispute broke out and people were leaving when another altercation erupted in the parking lot.

Soon came the gunshots.

''Make no mistake about it, chaos follows. People are running for their lives,'' said Espar.
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