Gary teen convicted in 2013 double murder, faces 218 years
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent July 3, 2014 7:50PM
Updated: July 4, 2014 2:03AM
A Gary teen faces 218 years in prison after being convicted Thursday of two counts of murder, robbery and criminal gang activity in a 2013 double homicide.
Lake Superior Court jury deliberated about two hours Thursday before convicting Donnell D. Wilson, 17. It took about 20 minutes for the jury to return guilty verdicts for criminal gang sentencing enhancement for Wilson, who was a member or affiliated with a criminal gang when he killed Charles Wood and Shaqwone Ham. The criminal gang sentencing enhancement will double the sentence on one of the murder charges.
Wilson, who was 16 at the time of the crime, will have a sentencing hearing Aug. 1 before Judge Salvador Vasquez.
Evidence presented by deputy prosecutors Michael Woods and Michael Toth showed that minutes before Ham, 19, and Wood, 18, were killed in what prosecutors say was a gang-related shooting, Wilson and co-defendant Johnte Crawford, 18, robbed a 15-year-old boy of his headphones and cell phone about 3:40 p.m. March 17, 2013, in the 2500 block of West 15th Avenue in Gary.
Twelve minutes later, police were called to the 2500 block of West 13th Avenue in Gary, where officers found Wood with a gunshot wound to the head lying in the middle of the street. A short distance away, Ham’s body was found with three to four gunshot wounds.
During closing arguments, defense attorney John Cantrell said the testimony of a former cellmate of Wilson’s, Israel Wiggins, was nothing more than “a kid who is trying to get himself out of jail.”
Wiggins, 18, testified Wednesday that the morning after he arrived at the Lake County Jail on carjacking and robbery charges, Wilson told him about his double-murder case. Wilson said he, Crawford and a third man called out to Ham and Wood after the robbery and that Wilson shot Wood, Wiggins said. Ham ran away, and Crawford fired shots at him. Under the accomplice liability theory, both teens acted together in fatally shooting the victims.
Wiggins said Wilson told him he used a .38 Special in the crime, but Cantrell argued that Wiggins could have learned that from looking at Wilson’s paperwork on the case while they shared a cell.
Wood argued that it wasn’t until May — months after Wiggins was no longer a cellmate of Wilson’s — that prosecutors learned through firearms analysis that the bullet recovered from Ham’s chest was fired from Wilson’s gun. Witnesses said Wilson had two guns in his possession when he was playing basketball before the robbery and homicides.
Wiggins, who came forward to prosecutors through his attorney, pleaded guilty to auto theft. His plea agreement outlines a three-year term on probation. Sentencing is scheduled for July 9. Wiggins had faced six to 20 years on charges of carjacking and armed robbery.
Wiggins testified that Wilson showed him a photograph of Wood after he was killed. “He said, ‘We got good aim,’ “ Wiggins recalled.
Crawford, 18, who pleaded guilty May 15 to murder and robbery, admitted he robbed the teen, then killed Ham. His plea agreement outlines a maximum 65-year sentence. Crawford’s sentencing hearing is July 11.