posttrib
FROSTY 
Weather Updates

3 men charged in 1980 fatal shooting of off-duty Hammond cop

storyidforme: 32530874
tmspicid: 11871432
fileheaderid: 5424228

Updated: June 22, 2012 9:12PM



Murder charges have been filed against three men in the 1980 shooting death of off-duty Hammond police officer Larry Pucalik during a robbery attempt at a Hammond motel.

New information made available to investigators led to the case being reopened and a joint investigation launched by members of the Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to Task Force spokesman Robert Byrd.

Pierre Catlett, 62, of Harvey, Ill., James Hill, 49, of Gary, and Larry Mayes, 62, of Portage, were charged Friday afternoon in Lake Superior Court. Hill and Mayes, who were arrested Thursday without incident, are being held at the Lake County Jail, and Catlett is incarcerated in the Cook County Jail, Byrd said. ATF Special Agent Dave Coulson said information obtained in 2010 was developed, and the investigation began in earnest in February 2011.

At about 3 a.m. on Nov. 14, 1980, Susan Harris was working as the front desk clerk at the Holiday Inn Southeast, located just off the Borman Expressway at the Cline Avenue exit in Hammond. Harris, who is now deceased, told police at the time that Pucalik was working security at the motel, which was equipped with a buzzer to allow individuals entry into the motel lobby. Pucalik responded to the buzzer and let inside a younger black man, about 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, who asked about a room. While Harris was checking for an available room, a second, taller man wearing a brown knit stocking cap walked into the lobby. Both men pulled out guns, placed a blue denim bag on the counter and ordered her to put all the money from the cash register into the bag.

Pucalik, who was in the back office, stepped into the lobby, realized a robbery was in progress and tried to pull out his gun but was shot by the man in the stocking cap. The robbers left the blue denim bag on the counter without getting any money. The getaway car was a blue sedan parked under the canopy near the front door.

A witness later identified as Catlett as one of three men he saw near a stolen blue 1973 Chevrolet Impala that pulled into the Kennedy Park Apartments a few miles from the motel around the time of the shooting. The men got into a maroon 1980 Oldsmobile. Police recovered a hubcap outside the Holiday Inn that belonged to the Impala, which had been reported stolen two days earlier in Gary.

Both Hill and Mayes were charged and convicted of rape in an October 1980 kidnapping of a Hammond gas station clerk who was sexually assaulted at gunpoint. Mayes’ rape conviction was overturned due to a lack of DNA evidence and circumstances surrounding hypnosis of the victim. Hill was given post-conviction relief because of due process discovery violations.

Meanwhile, two female hitchhikers who said Hill and a second man raped them identified the Impala as the car in which they were attacked two days before Pucalik’s homicide. The blue denim bag was also identified in an Oct. 19, 1980, robbery at a Hammond Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in which Hill was identified as one of the assailants, the probable cause affidavit states.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.