Judge doesn’t like plea agreement in Whiting homicide case
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent September 18, 2012 3:40PM
Shawn Zvonar. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 20, 2012 6:17AM
A Whiting man with a limited criminal record has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for a 26-year prison sentence.
Shawn A. Zvonar admitted he fatally stabbed David W. Ruzich, 58, at the family-onwed business, the former Owen-Ruzich Funeral Home, at 2031 Indianapolis Blvd., Whiting. Zvonar and Ruzich had a brief altercation early on Oct. 13, during which Zvonar became enraged and stabbed Ruzich several times “with a knife-like weapon and stabbed him with a screwdriver,” according to court documents.
Lake Superior Court Judge Salvador Vasquez said he was not “a fan” of agreed terms on cases such as voluntary manslaughter, which is punishable by a sentence of 20 to 50 years and noted that the outlined 26-year term is less than the advisory sentence of 30 years. Judges typically begin at the advisory term and weigh mitigating factors and aggravating factors in determining an appropriate sentence.
The judge said he had an informal conversation with deputy prosecutor Mark Watson and defense attorneys Teresa Hollandsworth and Sonya Scott-Dix and had been told that Zvonar slit Ruzich’s throat and stabbed Ruzich in the eye with a screwdriver. Those details weren’t included in the facts used to support Zvonar’s guilty plea.
“I don’t like the terms. I don’t like what occurred here. I don’t believe it’s appropriate,” Vasquez said.
Zvonar, 31, of Whiting, has a prior misdemeanor conviction for drunken driving.
The judge said he would take the agreement under advisement until the Oct. 23 sentencing hearing. He told the attorneys involved in the case that they must convince him that it’s an appropriate plea agreement.
Watson told the judge that the victim’s family was in agreement with the terms of the plea agreement, which calls for dismissal of a murder charge. Murder is punishable by a sentence of 45 to 65 years.