Law and Order Lake County
October 12, 2012 5:14PM
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:47AM
Hatred of cops was behind arson
A Dyer man who admitted he started a 2008 house fire at the home of a police officer because he “dislikes cops” has pleaded guilty to arson in exchange for a maximum 12-year sentence.
Christopher Costello, 27, admitted he broke into the home on Dec. 20, 2008 in the 9100 block of Sheffield Avenue, Dyer, by breaking a window of the back door, then set a box of clothing on fire. The fire rapidly spread throughout the home, injuring a 14-year-old boy who had burns to his ears and singed hair, and an 11-year-old girl who suffered smoke inhalation.
Five family dogs died, trapped in their cages in the basement. The family cat also died.
Costello had been charged with three counts of attempted murder, which were dismissed before he submitted the plea agreement.
The plea calls for six other arson charges and three burglary charges to be dismissed. Costello faced 20 to 50 years on the original charges.
Deputy prosecutor Michael Toth and defense attorney Paul Stracci will argue an appropriate sentence on Jan. 17 before Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell.
15 years for armed robbery in bar
Lake Superior Court Judge Clarence Murray sentenced a Gary man to 15 years in prison, followed by two years on probation, for robbery and criminal recklessness.
Eugene J. Brame, 29, admitted he fired a pump-action sawed-off shotgun into the ceiling of the Maple Leaf Bar, 719 W. 151st St., East Chicago, on May 10, 2011, put the gun to the bartender’s head and threatened to kill her if she didn’t hand over money from the cash register.
Brame stole $800 from the register, then robbed a patron at the bar of his wallet before firing another shot into the ceiling.
At the time, a tenant who lived directly above the bar was asleep. The shots went into the floor of the man’s apartment.
Defense attorney Kevin Milner noted his client has been employed and is a good father who took over care of the children when the mother became unable to. Milner cited his client’s difficult childhood.
Deputy prosecutor Sabrina Haney noted the violent and dangerous nature of the crime and Brame’s criminal history, which includes two juvenile adjudications and seven misdemeanor convictions.
Woman battered while holding baby
Criminal confinement, battery resulting in serious bodily injury, domestic battery and neglect of a dependent charges have been filed against a Gary man who allegedly battered his child’s mother while she was holding their 3-month-old child.
Ronnie McMahan, 31, of 4945 Washington St., is accused of striking the mother of his child in the face repeatedly on Wednesday while she held their infant in her arms. The woman told police she blacked out from the blows and woke up still with the baby in her arms. McMahan grabbed her by the hair and threw her into the wall and cabinet, which left signs of damage at the woman’s apartment in the 3600 block of Superior Court in East Chicago.
The incident began after they had eaten pizza and she got her four children settled and was taking him home. She had complained he had been swinging the infant in the car seat, causing her head to bounce around. McMahan was unhappy and said he wasn’t going anywhere, but the woman insisted, so McMahan moved the food from the counter, then repeatedly punched the woman “with all his force and might,” the probable cause affidavit states.
The woman was treated at St. Catherine Hospital for a broken nose, fracture of other facial bones, a cut lip and black eye. The assault occurred in front of the other children, who are 5, 4 and 2.
Cocaine dealer gets 10 years in prison
Lake Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. sentenced a man who twice entered the country illegally to 10 years and one month for dealing in cocaine.
Stefaniak heard Oscar Lopez-Aguirre, 27, make an impassioned plea for leniency as he detailed how a cocaine addiction led him to sell cocaine to a former girlfriend. “I was blinded by my addiction,” he said.
Lopez-Aguirre was deported in 2008 following a conviction in Wisconsin for another drug-dealing case that netted him a six-year sentence, but returned to the U.S. because he was in love with a woman. He later learned she had moved on with her life, so he relocated to Indiana, only to become a daily cocaine user who sold to support his habit.
“He’s not a dealer, he’s an addict,” defense attorney R. Brian Woodward said. Woodward said his client has completed the course, “Conquering Chemical Dependency,” which Lopez-Aguirre said opened his eyes to the pain he was causing his family.
Deputy prosecutor Michelle Jatkiewicz argued for the maximum 12-year sentence outlined in the plea agreement.