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183 years for teen in 2 Gary murders

Donnell Wils17 was sentenced Friday Aug. 1 2014 183 years prisfor two murders other charges.

Donnell Wilson, 17, was sentenced Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, to 183 years in prison for two murders and other charges.

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Updated: September 3, 2014 6:10AM



A 17-year-old sat stoically in his red jail suit Friday as Lake Superior Court Judge Salvador Vazquez handed down a 183-year prison sentence for two murders, robbery and conspiracy to commit gang activity.

Donnell Wilson, who was 16 at the time of the murders of Shaqwone Ham, 19, and his brother, Charles Wood, 18, made no statement during the Friday sentencing hearing, where additional police officers and a police dog kept a watchful eye in the courtroom in light of an outburst that resulted in a contempt of court finding last month.

The criminal gang sentencing enhancement — the first ever imposed in Lake County — provides that the longest sentence imposed in the case be doubled. The judge handed down a 60-year sentence for the murder of Wood, 55 years for Ham’s murder, six years for the robbery and two years for conspiracy to commit criminal gang activity.

“He’s a kid,” defense attorney John Cantrell said of his client. Cantrell argued for leniency and urged the judge to craft a sentence that would let Wilson get out of prison, see the light of day and breathe fresh air.

Shalonda Ham, the mother of the two victims, described Shaqwone as a good-hearted young man and Wood as fun-loving and happy. She said the family has suffered greatly and is forever broken by the murders and asked Vasquez to impose the maximum sentence.

Deputy prosecutor Michael Woods presented evidence through testimony of the lead investigator, Gary police Detective Lorenzo Davis, that Wilson is still engaged in gang activity from the jail. Woods played recordings of Wilson talking of “smashing” a rival gang member and telling family in recorded phone calls and a video visit that he couldn’t wait to get into the adult section of the jail to “crash,” or fight, the man who had beaten a murder charge.

Woods said Wilson plastered his Facebook page with his gang affiliation. It was Wilson who provided the gun to co-defendant Johnte Crawford, 18, who was sentenced on Thursday to 61 years after pleading guilty to Ham’s murder and a separate robbery.

Evidence presented by Woods and deputy prosecutor Michael Toth at the four-day trial showed that after Crawford and Wilson robbed a 15-year-old boy of his cellphone and headphones on March 17, 2013, in the 2500 block of West 15th Avenue in Gary, they walked two blocks to the 2500 block of West 13th Avenue in Gary. Wilson ran up behind Wood and shot him in the head in an unprovoked attack. Using the gun provided by Wilson, Crawford shot and killed Ham as he ran away.

Woods said the actions of Wilson destroyed at least two families, and regardless of his young age, his gang activity is destroying a neighborhood, community and city.

“There is no reason before this court that Donnell Wilson should ever leave prison,” Woods said.

Last month, the judge found Wilson in direct contempt for an outburst in court after the jury had returned guilty verdicts and before jurors began deliberating on the criminal gang sentencing enhancement count. Wilson struggled with bailiffs as he was led away. The judge said he was rescinding the six-month sentence but that the contempt citation would stand.

Vasquez agreed with Woods that it was Wilson who supplied the guns used in the robbery and murders. “You’ve destroyed your life. You’re destroyed the lives of the families, and for no good reason at all,” Vasquez said.

Cantrell said Wilson will appeal.



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