Friend testifies murder suspect’s hands were bloody
BY RUTH ANN KRAUSE AND CARRIE NAPOLEON Post-Tribune correspondents October 4, 2013 6:42PM
Robert Lewis III, was sentenced Monday to life in prison for killing a Griffith woman. | Provided
Updated: November 6, 2013 6:12AM
A Gary man on trial for murder had bloody hands when his girlfriend picked him up at his parents’ home after witnesses testified they saw him leave a Griffith restaurant with the victim.
Testifying Friday at the trial of Robert Lewis III, his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Chakole Spurlock, 38, said Lewis had called her twice the night of April 1, 2011, and early the following morning while she was working the midnight shirt at Lear Corp. in Hammond.
In the first call between 11 p.m. and midnight, she said he asked her to join him. In the second call sometime between midnight and 1 a.m., she said, he asked her to pick him up from Pepe’s. “It sounded like he was in need of help,” Spurlock said.
While she was on the witness stand, prosecutors had Spurlock acknowledge that she was testifying in exchange for immunity from prosecution because she could have faced charges for helping to cover up a crime.
By the time she was able to get off work and head to the restaurant, it was closed. Spurlock said she eventually reached Lewis by phone, and he asked her to pick him up at his parents’ Gary home.
When Lewis got into her car, Spurlock said she saw Lewis’ hands were bloody and he was fidgety. He showed her his bloody clothes and shoes, the same items she watched him burn on the cement apron of the detached garage behind her home. Lewis was wearing jeans, a T-shirt and house slippers.
Lewis told Spurlock that he and a friend had beaten another man, she said.
Earlier evidence showed the victim, Jennifer Kocsis, 37, of Griffith, was seen leaving Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant in Griffith at about 2 a.m. April 2, 2011, after telling a friend she was giving “a guy” a ride home. Lewis was identified as the man who left with Kocsis.
About seven hours later, Kocsis’ badly beaten body was found outside Riley School, 1301 E. 43rd Ave., Gary. She suffered blunt force trauma to the head and chest and was strangled, Dr. John Cavanaugh, a forensic pathologist with the Lake County coroner’s office, said.
In phone calls Lewis made from the jail, Lewis can be heard urging Spurlock to tell police she picked Lewis up from Pepe’s, even though she had already told police she picked him up in Gary. “Tell them you didn’t want your boyfriend to know that you had picked me up from Pepe’s that night,” Lewis said.
“You got to be my witness in court,” Lewis told her.
In another phone call, Lewis asked whether Spurlock will stand with him and denied knowing the victim. “She asked me did I need a ride, that was it,” Lewis said.
Spurlock said days after she picked up Lewis, her son noticed what appeared to be blood on the inside passenger door. She lied and told him “somebody cut themselves,” she said.
Spurlock acknowledged she initially was uncooperative with police because she was afraid. After speaking with detectives, she retrieved the burned clothes and shoes from the garage area and put them in her garbage can, where police found them. Jurors saw photos showing pieces of Lewis’ jacket, the scorched rubber soles of his shoes and other items.
Lewis, 40, of Gary, faces life in prison without parole if convicted.