UPDATE: All three teens in Elkhart murder case found guilty - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: All three teens in Elkhart murder case found guilty

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Three Teens are guilty of murder but they didn't pull the trigger.  The teen boys were on trial all this week because Police say they burglarized an Elkhart house nearly a year ago.  A man inside woke up and opened fire, killing one of the suspects.  Late Thursday night a jury found all three of them guilty of murder.

Several people were crying and yelling outside the Elkhart County Courtroom late Thursday night and into Friday morning after Anthony Sharp, Levi Sparks, and Blake Layman were all found guilty of murder.  Family members were visibly upset.  They were crying, yelling, and some couldn't even walk away from the courthouse they had to be carried.  The tears started in the courtroom as soon as the verdicts were read.

Levi Sparks Defense Attorney Vincent Campiti said, "It was a shocking verdict."  Campiti said they did the best they could.  But he's not happy with the outcome.  "It's obviously disappointing.  I think that we put on a very good case for the boys."

He said when it comes to Levi Sparks he thinks the jury could have easily found him not guilty. But he added the trial location may have had something to do with the verdict.  "I think this is a very tough county in regards to some of these criminal cases," said Campiti.

Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill said it was the verdict he wanted.  "We feel the jury did the right thing."

He said justice was served, "The verdict I believe was appropriate It was a very difficult case, a very important case because it does send a message to those that committed the crime."

But friends and family of the now guilty teens had a message for Hill as they left the courthouse.  They yelled obscenities at him.

Campiti told us he hadn't talked to the family after the verdict was read.  He told Sparks' mother to call him next week to talk about what the options are moving forward.

Sentencing for the teens will be on September 12th.

 

(Updated 8/23/2013 12:01 am) -- All three teens charged with murder in an Elkhart court case that has lasted all week have been found guilty by a jury. There were audible gasps and tears in the courtroom as the verdict was read.

(Updated 8/22/2013 10:15 pm) --Jury deliberations continue tonight, after jurors paused their discussions to ask a couple questions. A defense attorney tells FOX28's Melanie Yuill that one of the questions was about a particular Indiana Code. The other question that the jurors had was about the word "knowingly" and if it refers to the defendants or the general public. Jurors took a quick smoke break around 9:15 before returning to the courtroom. Melanie remains in Elkhart County tonight to keep us updated with the very latest. Stay with FOX28.com for updates on this case as they become available.

(Updated 8/22/2013) -- Closing arguments are over and the jury now has the case in the trial of three teens charged with felony murder in Elkhart.

FOX28's Melanie Yuill is talking with family members right now.  Melanie spoke with Blake Layman's Godmother who says her "heart is pounding right now."  Family members tell Melanie they hope that a verdict is reached tonight.  They held a quick prayer vigil outside the courthouse right after the judge gave the jury instructions.

"It's coming to an end," Suspect Blake Layman's Godmother Summer Gary-Slack told FOX28.  "We're going to learn the fate of these three boys, who before this situation, were just normal teenagers and now they are being looked at as murderers, and they're not."

We also spoke with Layman's Grandmother.  "It's all in the man up above's hands," she said.  "We firmly believe that God will see us all through this.  He's taken us this far and he's got his hands on the jurors."

The judge told the jurors if they don't find the teens guilty of felony murder, they do have the option to find them guilty of burglary.

Stay with FOX28 and FOX28.com as we wait for a verdict.  We'll have a full report on FOX28 News at 10.

The trial continues for the three teens charged with felony murder.

Blake Layman, Anthony Sharp, Levi Sparks, Danzele Johnson, and Jose Quiroz broke into an Elkhart home in October of 2012. The homeowner opened fire, killing Johnson. The teens are charged under an Indiana Law that holds people committing a felony responsible if a murder occurs during the crime.

Quiroz has already pleaded guilty, but when he got to the standWednesday, he was uncooperative.

When questioned about specifics to this case and the three defendants' involvement, Quiroz pleaded the 5th amendment. The judge called a recess and after some time brought the witness and attorneys back in without the jury.

The prosecutor again asked specific questions about the case and Quiroz pleaded the 5th. The judge then ordered Quiroz to answer the questions and Quiroz said, "The only thing I recall is Danzele Johnson died in my arms. I've been in prison."

Quiroz then said the state forced him to plead guilty. He wrote a letter to the court after the plea hearing saying he was threatened and wanted to withdraw his agreement. That was denied.

The prosecution then asked him about conversations last night about the case. Quiroz said he had slept since then, and doesn't recall the information he gave. The prosecution said "he had a fine memory last night" and asked if a visit from family members afterward had anything to do with his "feigned memory."

With the jury back in the courtroom, Quiroz said he was under the influence of drugs on October 3 and doesn't recall much. He says it was HIM who broke into the Elkhart home on Frances Avenue and says "I had no intention of hurting nobody."

He says he lied during his original statements to the police and during his plea hearing. He says he lied because of fear and also because he is trying to forget. "I tried to flush it out and I've move on. It was the lowest part of my life."

Defendant's family members say it was hard to see the 17-year-old take the stand. "It's sad, it breaks my heart because I don't wanna see none of them go away for that long," says April Sparks, defendant Levi Sparks' mom.

But they were also encouraged. "I think Jose was supposed to be one of their biggest witnesses, he was supposed to be the foundation of this case.Jose's testimony really didn't help the state at all. I feel better," says Angie Johnson, defendant Blake Layman's mom.

 

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