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Merrillville teen gets 11-year sentence for reckless homicide

Updated: January 19, 2014 12:06PM

A Merrillville teen was sentenced Tuesday to 11 years in prison for the reckless homicide of a 14-year-old boy.

Matthew Knight, 16, admitted he fired into a home in the 7500 block of Marshall Street in Merrillville on March 27 of this year.

It was about 8:30 p.m.; the family who lived in the home was settling in to watch a movie as spring break was beginning.

Depree Mims was getting a blanket for one of the other children when the bullet struck him in the head, killing him.

Naomi Mims, Depree’s mother, said her son was obedient and respectful. “What happened to my son didn’t deserve to happen to him. He didn’t know the defendant at all,” she said.

Mims said her son, who had a learning disability, was the second oldest of eight children. He enjoyed playing basketball, spending time with his family and watching movies with them. “I know that this will impact our family for the rest of our lives,” she said.

Deputy prosecutor Monica Rogina presented evidence that Knight gave police various versions of the events that night. She played a phone call from the Lake County Jail in which Knight was laughing that he’d misled police about burying the gun in the backyard. Merrillville police Detective Ray Smith said investigators dug for about one hour and never found the gun, which Knight purchased the day of the shooting.

“He is a gun-toting punk who killed a 14-year-old boy in front of his whole family,” Rogina said as she argued for the maximum eight-year sentence for reckless homicide, plus five years for the use of a firearm in the commission of a crime.

Also testifying was Kevin Dale Brown, 18, who like Knight was charged with murder and criminal gang activity. Brown said he has been offered a deal to plead guilty to assisting a criminal, a class D felony punishable by a maximum three-year sentence. Brown said it was Knight who fired the gun from the back seat of a Chevrolet Monte Carlo toward the Mims’ house.

Knight had a juvenile adjudication for possession of marijuana, dangerous possession of a handgun, theft and possession of a controlled substance.

The day after the homicide, Knight used the same gun to rob one of his drug dealers.

Defense attorney Patrick Young elicited testimony that Brown also had lied to police when initially questioned. Young suggested that another individual who hasn’t been charged was the actual shooter. Police have been unable to locate that man, Smith said.

Young and Knight’s mother, Michelle Knight, both expressed their sympathy to the family for their loss.

Young said his client admitted to his role in the crime but did not admit that he was the shooter. “I don’t believe this should all be laid at the feet of Matthew Knight,” said Young, who urged Lake Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr., to show leniency in light of his client’s young age.

In a two-paragraph statement read aloud by Young, Knight apologized for his role in the crime. Knight said he feared his infant son, born while he’s been in Lake County Jail, will grow up without a father and he wants to teach him right from wrong.

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