Lake Station man admits to arson murders in Miller
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent December 14, 2012 5:10PM
Rafael Peluyera of Lake Station charged in Miller apartment fire that killed two. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 15, 2012 1:07AM
A Lake Station man who pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in perpetration of an arson that killed a mother and her teenage daughter faces a 65-year sentence.
Rafael Peluyera, 22, admitted that early on July 25, he deliberately set a fire in the Lake Shore Dunes Apartments, 5805 Kennedy Terrace, in the Miller section of Gary. Flames engulfed the apartment building, trapping Bernice King, 33, and Angel Harris, 14, inside. Harris’ other children escaped the blaze by jumping from a third-floor bedroom window.
During the change of plea hearing, Peluyera told Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell that he was unable to raise his right hand to take the oath because he’d been shot. The shooting occurred the day after King and her daughter died.
Before the blaze was set, King had indicated she and her family were being threatened. Two days before the fatal fire, King’s son, Antonio Harris, who was 17 at the time, had an altercation with another man over money and that the man and some of his friends had come over and shot at King’s apartment.
Peluyera will be sentenced to 65 years on each charge, with the sentences served concurrently. Boswell scheduled a Jan. 11 sentencing hearing. Murder is punishable by 45 to 65 years.
Peluyera’s case had been set for jury trial starting Jan. 28.
His co-defendant, Trevontay D. Milsap, 19, of Lake Station, has a court date on Wednesday.