Prosecution builds case against Gary man accused in killing
By Ruth Ann Krause and Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondents October 3, 2013 6:26PM
Robert Lewis III, was sentenced Monday to life in prison for killing a Griffith woman. | Provided
Updated: November 5, 2013 6:34AM
CROWN POINT — Jurors heard testimony Thursday in the murder trial of a Gary man that described the dead woman’s strangulation injuries and surveillance video from a karaoke bar showing the victim talking with the defendant.
Robert Lewis III, 40, faces life without parole if convicted of charges of murder in perpetration of a robbery and murder in perpetration of criminal deviate conduct.
He has pleaded not guilty to those charges and separate counts of murder, robbery, criminal deviate conduct and resisting law enforcement in the April 2, 2011, death of Jennifer Kocsis, 37, of Griffith.
Kocsis’ body was found outside Riley School, 1301 E. 43rd Ave., Gary, about seven hours after witnesses saw her leave Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant in Griffith with a man who has been identified as Lewis. Kocsis, who had gone there to sing karaoke, told a friend she was giving a guy a ride home.
Dr. John Cavanaugh, a forensic pathologist with the Lake County Coroner’s Office, pointed out Kocsis’ injuries to jurors on crime scene and autopsy photos. He said Kocsis suffered blunt force trauma injuries around the face, neck and back of the head, as well as cuts, contusions and scrapes, possibly from being dragged or falling and sliding on a hard surface.
He said the head injuries likely rendered Kocsis unconscious shortly after they were sustained.
Additional injuries, including coin-shaped bruises in her neck and throat area, bruises to the right and left side of her larynx and a broken hyoid bone — the bone at the base of the tongue and above the larynx — were consistent with strangulation.
“This is what you see in classical or textbook manual strangulation,” Cavanaugh said when asked to describe the injuries.
Gary Police Department Detective Larry Robertson was the last witness to take the stand. He testified Kocsis could be seen on Pepe’s surveillance video talking with the man to whom she gave the ride, later identified as Lewis, at the restaurant’s bar and then leaving the restaurant with him.
Robertson’s testimony regarding clothing found burned in a garbage can at the home of Lewis’ girlfriend, information based on witness interviews, drew a steady stream of hearsay objections by the defense and prompted the court to recess for the day.
In earlier testimony, Lake County police evidence technician Kyle Sopko said after Lewis’ arrest, he photographed Lewis’ hands. Lewis had a small cut on Lewis’ right hand and discoloration or apparent bruising in the knuckle area. Sopko also noted the hand and the right index finger were swollen.
At the request of defense attorney T. Edward Page, Sopko looked at Lewis’ hands in court and said the apparent discoloration on the back of his hand was still evident and that the cut had left a scar, but that he did not see any swelling on Lewis’ hands.
Jurors also viewed several photographs of Kocsis’ car, including some showing suspected blood stains on the trunk, back window and steering wheel, as well as a tooth or bone fragment on the driver’s side near the rear passenger seat window.
Police found a key amid burned debris at a home in the 4600 block of Buchanan Street in Gary eight days after the homicide. Among the items that had been burned was a shoe with the letters USPA on the sole. One witness recalled Lewis wearing U.S. Polo Association shoes at Pepe’s before he left with Kocsis.
The trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. Friday.