8 years for fatal stabbing in Crown Point
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent September 28, 2012 12:37PM
Updated: October 30, 2012 6:07AM
A Crown Point man was sentenced Friday to just under the maximum eight-year prison term for reckless homicide in a Thanksgiving morning stabbing on the square in downtown Crown Point.
Lake Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. sentenced Jeffrey Matthew Nemcek, 23, to 2,875 days for the reckless homicide — about 7.9 years — plus 180 days for possession of a switchblade knife.
Nemcek fatally stabbed Brandon Huseman during a chance encounter after a night of drinking on Nov. 24, 2011. Jurors acquitted him on Aug. 28 of murder and voluntary manslaughter.
“I am extremely sorry for what happened to Brandon. I’m sorry for both families,” Nemcek said. “I wish I’d never gone out that night. I’m not a criminal.”
Though Nemcek apologized in court, deputy prosecutor Jamise Perkins argued that Nemcek’s true colors showed in snippets of phone call recordings from the Lake County Jail — played at the sentencing hearing — during which he referred to Huseman with an expletive and said he would wink or smile at Huseman’s father when he received a lenient sentence of work release or probation.
“The brutality of this killing and the attitude of this defendant” warrant the maximum sentence, Perkins argued.
Huseman’s widow, Kristin, said her fairytale life of marrying her high school sweetheart and planning to adopt a 3-year-old orphan after the couple fostered two other children has disintegrated.
“I’ve felt pain, hate and despair,” she said, reading from a statement.
“Jeffrey Nemcek, I will never understand why you decided to carry a knife that night,” she said.
Huseman’s father, Kevin, said his 26-year-old son touched many lives, as evidenced by the 1,200 people who attended his wake and more than 400 at his funeral. Huseman said the night Brandon was killed he was trying to bring calm to an escalating situation.
Conflicting evidence emerged during the trial as to whether someone in Huseman’s group punched Nemcek or whether Nemcek provoked the exchange. Stefaniak noted the undisputed evidence was that Nemcek had already passed the group with Huseman that included three men when he turned around, exchanged words with them, then pulled a switchblade and plunged it into Huseman’s abdomen.
The single stab wound belied the 11 separate wound tracks inside Huseman’s body that amputated his liver and damaged major blood vessels. Huseman died after surgery.
Defense attorney Kevin Milner argued for leniency in light of his client’s minimal criminal history — one juvenile adjudication for criminal mischief and one misdemeanor conviction for reckless driving, and blasted the state’s case. “That perjury was pervasive in the state’s case was obvious,” Milner said.
Nemcek’s mother, Jean, described her son as quiet, well-mannered and shy, someone who helps around the house and readily assists elderly neighbors and family. “My son did not start it,” she said. She apologized to the Huseman family.
Stefaniak, however, said Nemcek’s jailhouse phone calls showed a “cold, callused side” not apparent to those who know him well.
Nemcek plans to appeal.